A reluctant return to the public arena

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The Independent Online

If Philip Green wins the battle for Marks & Spencer, the pugnacious retailer would once again be heading up a publicly listed company, making him answerable to outside shareholders - something that has not been an issue since his ignominious departure from the retailer Amber Day 12 years ago.

If Philip Green wins the battle for Marks & Spencer, the pugnacious retailer would once again be heading up a publicly listed company, making him answerable to outside shareholders - something that has not been an issue since his ignominious departure from the retailer Amber Day 12 years ago.

Mr Green, who built Amber Day through a series of acquisitions, resigned from that group after reporting a shortfall in profits. He was savaged by the City and shares in his discount retail chain fell sharply after the event.

Mr Green's resignation was preceded in the summer of 1992 by the sudden departure of Amber Day's only non-executive director, the former merchant banker Leslie Warman, who had criticised him over lack of consultation and irregularity of board meetings.

At the time of his resignation, Mr Green said: "As you are no doubt aware, the company has suffered a lot of adverse publicity in recent months. Sadly, I now believe that the distraction to the management of the business caused by this publicity, much of which relates to me personally and to my family, is such that it is right for the good of the company, shareholders and staff for me to stand down."

Yesterday Mr Green was adamant that things had changed substantially for him in the intervening period and that he was ready for a City comeback. "The world is a completely different place to how it was for me 12 to 13 years ago ... I am now backed by five of the world's biggest financial institutions," he said. Mr Green said he would rather have made an all-cash bid for Marks & Spencer - thereby taking the group private - but that he was advised that he would not succeed in a bid without offering shareholders some of the potential upside. "This particular company would not let me buy it for cash ... These are the rules of engagement", he said.

During his time at the helm of Amber Day, Mr Green was advised by Sir Lawrie Magnus, then at Samuel Montagu, the bank that has since been subsumed by HSBC. Mr Green, then an even more outspoken character than he is now, was seen as an unlikely client for the bank, but Sir Lawrie backed him until Mr Warman's resignation and the eventual profits shortfall. His resignation was supported by the Prudential, one of Samuel Montagu's investment subsidiaries, and AIB Govett.

At the time, many in the City felt that Mr Green, who was perceived as a risk-taking entrepreneur, was unsuited to life in the public company world.

One banker, who worked for Samuel Montagu at the time, said yesterday: "It was felt by some that Mr Green, who was known to the bank as a fast-moving entrepreneurial character, was better suited to the private company world."

Marks & Spencer shareholders must now weigh up whether or not the time has come to allow Mr Green to make a dramatic return to the public company arena.

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