Outlook: GUS complaint leaves a sour taste

IT WAS THE first anniversary yesterday of the launch of Great Universal Stores' hostile bid for the catalogue retailer Argos. It was also the day on which the Takeover Panel chose to throw out the complaint subsequently brought by the GUS chairman, Lord Wolfson, over tactics used by Argos and its advisers, Schroders, in the unsuccessful bid defence.

Perhaps the Panel is trying to make a point. In the eyes of some, Lord Wolfson's initial complaint to the Takeover Panel's executive last May was petulant and vindictive, not to mention offensive and a waste of time. The executive concluded in June that no breach of the City Takeover Code had taken place. But Lord Wolfson is not the sort to take no for an answer and decided eventually to appeal against the executive's ruling to the full Panel.

His actions smacked then of a man who had overpaid for the business and was seeking to take it out on someone else. They still do, as yesterday's eight-page rant from the GUS camp against the ruling amply demonstrates.

The Panel, of course, is too polite to say as much. So instead it has contented itself with turning Lord Wolfson down on a technicality - that he did not get his appeal in on time.

The rules are straightforward enough and had Lord Wolfson or his advisers, Merrill Lynch, managed to get as far as page four of the Takeover Code they could have read it in black and white. Any appeal has to be lodged within one month. Lord Wolfson took four and a half months.

In anticipation perhaps that he was likely lose the argument, Lord Wolfson's advisers have been furiously pedalling the line that his complaint against Argos was based on a point of principle.

If that was the case, then it is odd that he should have personally pursued four Argos directors, most of whom are now out of a job, writing a four- page letter containing the thinly veiled threat of legal action.

A less charitable but more plausible interpretation of Lord Wolfson's actions was that he was seeking to get a favourable ruling from the Panel under his belt as a prelude to taking the four directors and Schroders to the courts and thence to the cleaners.

Along the way, he has made few friends. For the first time in the Panel's 31-year existence, he chose to question the impartiality of the executive's director-general, Alistair de Freiz, on the grounds that he is on secondment from SBC Warburg Dillon Read, the brokers to Argos. Presumably Lord Wolfson overlooked the fact that Warburgs is also GUS's principal adviser.

The one crumb of comfort Lord Wolfson can take is that the Panel has promised to look at the practice of investment banks being paid a higher success fee in the event of fighting off a hostile bid - as was the case with Schroders.

But otherwise, the entire episode leaves a sour taste in the mouth. Today Lord Wolfson ought to feel just a little chastened as well as a little wiser but the betting is he won't.

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
Life and Style
It is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the increase
food + drink
An Apple iPhone 6 stands on display at the Apple Store
businessRegulators give iPhone 6 and 6 Plus the green light
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
Britain's internet habits have been revealed in a new survey
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
The White Sails Hospital and Spa is to be built in the new Tunisia Economic City.
architectureRussian billionaire designs boat-shaped hospital for new Dubai-style Tunisia Economic City
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Duncan Campbell's hour-long film 'It for Others'
Turner Prize 2014
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hadley in a scene from ‘Soul Boys Of The Western World’
musicSpandau Ballet are back together - on stage and screen
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Bearing up: Sebastian Flyte with his teddy Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited
lifePhilippa Perry explains why a third of students take a bear to uni
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Alan Sugar appearing in a shot from Apprentice which was used in a Cassette Boy mashup
artsA judge will rule if pieces are funny enough to be classed as parodies
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Trust Accountant - Kent

NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

Graduate Recruitment Consultant - 2013/14 Grads - No Exp Needed

£18000 - £20000 per annum + OTE £30000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

Law Costs

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - Law Costs Draftsperson - NICHE...

SQL Developer (Stored Procedures) - Hertfordshire/Middlesex

£300 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer (Stored Procedures) Watford...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style