Outlook: A deal too far for one of the City's stars

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The Independent Online
There will be many in the City positively wallowing in Schadenfreude this morning. Howard Poulson cannot claim he wasn't warned. For many years Mr Poulson was a star in the City. Farnell, a company that specialised in the obscure business of catalogue selling of electronic components, was a stock market wonderstock, and Mr Poulson was rightly given the credit for its performance.

Then, as often happens in enterpreneurially driven companies, came the deal too far, the pounds 1.8bn acquisition of Premier in the US, a rather larger company than Farnell in the same kind of business. Many of his largest shareholders said at the time that he was overpaying, and several of them famously opposed him. Driven by an overpowering optimism, Mr Poulson refused to listen, and he turned their objections into a point of principle about a management's right to manage. I've brought you this far, he told shareholders, now watch me do it all over again.

Thus has hubris been overtaken by nemesis. There are plenty of reasons why Premier failed to live up to expectations, but the biggest fault was always Mr Poulson's groundless optimism. It's a old story in business, but nobody ever seems to learn.