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
Sport
tennisLive: Follow all the updates from Melbourne as Murray faces Czech Tomas Berdych in the semi-final
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
musicYou'll have to ask Taylor Swift first
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Joel Grey, now 82, won several awards for his role in Cabaret
people
Sport
Harry Kane celebrates scoring the opening goal for Spurs
footballLive: All the latest transfer news as deadline day looms
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Report Writer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Technical Report Writer is re...

MBDA UK Ltd: Indirect Procurement Category Manager

Competitive salary & benefits!: MBDA UK Ltd: MBDA UK LTD Indirect Procurement...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£16500 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing Finance compa...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness