Boots fights corporate raider Guy Hands for £600m Co-op pharmacies

Another low for beleaguered group after bailout of bank business by vulture funds

Deputy Business Editor

Guy Hands, one of the most famous corporate raiders of recent British history, has emerged as a £600m bidder for the Co-operative Group's pharmacies chain in a move marking yet another ignominious low for a society based on the socialist principles of mutuality.

Mr Hands, famed for his disastrous takeover of EMI Music just before the global economic crisis, is not the only character in the auction who is likely to appal Co-op members already reeling from having their bank bailed out by US vulture funds. Other bidders include Alliance Boots, the giant corporation notorious for moving its tax base to the haven of Switzerland, and the private equity firm Carlyle, famed in the past for its heavy involvement in the US weapons industry and for hiring George Bush Snr as an adviser. Carlyle is considering a bid through its Holland & Barrett health foods chain.

Other major private equity buyout funds interested in buying the business include CVC Capital, Charterhouse, Cinven and Montagu, Sky News reported.

News that the chain was likely to find such a home came as Co-op members prepared to vote today on whether to accept the radical reforms of the group proposed by the former City minister Lord Myners, which are aimed at giving more power to the executives. The decision about whether to push through his proposals will be made by just 130 people at a special private meeting in Manchester

They will be deciding the future of the 150-year-old organisation, voting on a resolution to make four key changes including creating a qualified board and, controversially for some societies, introducing one member, one vote. The latter resolution is divisive for some societies because it threatens their bloc voting power.

The Midcounties Co-operative, one of the independent societies which make up 22 per cent of the total vote, recently reversed its initial opposition to the Myners proposals and looks set to vote in favour of the new plan this afternoon.

Midcounties' president, Patrick Gray, told the BBC yesterday: "Lord Myners is absolutely right to say that the group needs a smaller, experienced group of board members in order to take some very difficult decisions."

Much of the rest of the vote will be made up of millions of members who vote through their area committees. Members in London are said to have instructed their representatives to reject the Myners proposals.

The gathering of members at the Co-op's headquarters in Manchester will begin with an annual general meeting. This will be followed by the special general meeting at which the vote on the Myners resolution will take place.

Lord Myners, who recently resigned as an independent director, published a report earlier this month urging the group to back radical reforms to sweep away the "dysfunctional" board that oversaw a year of record £2.5bn losses in 2013. The former Treasury mandarin Sir Christopher Kelly also recently published a scathing report on the Co-op saga, focusing on the near-collapse of its banking arm, which was chiefly responsible for the wider group's woes.

Both men will speak at the special general meeting but only after the vote has been held.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the iWatch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
News
Astronauts could be kept asleep for days or even weeks
scienceScientists are looking for a way to keep astronauts in a sleeplike state for days or weeks
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager / Development Manager - NW London - £58k + 15% bonus

£50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

£13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own