Once upon a time there was a security business called Group Four which always seemed to be forgetting its keys. In fact it became a poster child for the critics of privatisation and contracting out, while offering a battalion of nasty left-wing comedians a ready supply of jokes.
Until it found a fairy godbanker who sprinkled a bit of pixie dust over it. "Lo," he said. "Here is some M&A so that you might create a shiny new company from a right old mess. And then you will call it G4S."
And so it came to pass. Except that nobody lived happily ever after because the ghost of Group 4 never quite went away. He hid in the godbanker's shadows and now he's come back to play, hitting G4S in quite the most horrible way.
There really is no higher-profile contract than the Olympic security detail and the company has made a real mess of it.
Is it any wonder? In many ways its boss, Nick Buckles, embodies the failings of the modern chief executive. When he should have been running the business he was cloistered with his fairy godbanker trying to secure yet another merger with the Danish cleaning company ISS.
G4S will probably deny that the two are linked. But when the boss is running the deal rather than running the company is it any wonder that things start slipping?
Top executives get dazzled by the megabucks they expect from the remuneration committee; bonuses for beating cost-savings targets, carefully and cynically set at the outset to make failure all but impossible. Salary rises for running a bigger company, with associated bloated long-term incentive schemes that pay out even if the results for shareholders turn sour.
Meanwhile, knowing what's coming, those slightly lower down the corporate food chain start to concentrate all their efforts on protecting their jobs rather than doing them.
We're now living with the result.
So are G4S's shareholders. At least they can console themselves with the thought that they were right to block the merger with ISS.
Just think where we would be if the deal had gone through. Had the bosses of G4S been spending all their time fitting a Danish square peg into their round hole not even all the former's battalions of cleaners would have been enough to deal with the resulting mess. Meanwhile Mr Buckles is going to be handed a poisoned apple on a plate by his chairman. And there'll be no fairy godbanker around to save him.
Watchdogs must speed up banking showdown
Another day, another batch of headlines to induce migraines in the Barclays boardroom.
This is the scandal that just won't go away and even if we're not learning much that is actually new any more there is a soap opera-like quality to the affair which is still offering enough twists and turns to make the average scriptwriter green with envy.
Yesterday's sport was the delicious Schadenfreude of watching another of Barclays' masters of the universe hauled in front of MPs in the form of former chief operating officer Jerry del Missier.
That together with more talk of criminal charges for those who sought to enter the financial casino with loaded dice. If the Serious Fraud Office can't (or won't) push the button then some jurisdiction or other in the United States surely will.
There'll be no screaming about one-sided extradition treaties or the supposed failings of the US justice system if they do.
In the meantime we're left to sit and wait for the next bank caught in the regulators' net to settle. One thing is certain: having watched the firestorm engulfing Barclays there isn't a bank boss in the world who wants to go next.
The trouble is while they battle to prolong the inevitable, confidence and trust in the banking system is ebbing away, taking London's reputation as a financial centre with it. This can't be allowed to continue. It's a recipe for disaster and it is time for regulators to get a handle on it.
They need to force the pace. A good start would be to provide a definitive list of who is involved together with progress details of the investigations into them.
This, it is true, could prove legally complicated to achieve. But it could perhaps be achieved via a voluntary agreement and that might not be so hard to reach, given that it would offer the protection of the herd to those who sign up.
Sky staying in the back seats with movies offer
It seems to be a day for contaminated brands, what with G4S and Barclays front and centre. And so to Sky. Although, let's be fair, despite the controversy that bedevils the Murdoch empire, Sky has taken no more than a glancing blow from it.
Despite all that, and its occasionally godawful customer service, the Sky name is a powerful one. Which makes the company's decision to excise it from its planned rival to movie rental and streaming services such as Netflix and Lovefilm seem slightly strange.
The new web-based service is to be called Now TV to differentiate it from Sky proper. By doing this it hopes to tempt some of the 13 million people who have so far shunned pay-TV and are perhaps understandably reluctant to let Sky get its hooks into them with one of its bewildering array of long-term contracts.
Stephen van Rooyen, Sky's managing director of sales and marketing, was pumping up Now TV to the marketing press yesterday by describing it as a guilt-free and fun way for those people to take advantage of the company's services. Kind of like an Innocent smoothie.
This rather looks like an admission that the Sky name comes with a fair bit of baggage, and not just from the phone-hacking affair.Reuse content