Outlook: Remember what happened to Scott

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The Independent Online
Redland, the besieged building materials group, is utilising a form of the famous Captain Oates defence (I'm going out, I may be some time), by caving into perceived shareholder pressure and agreeing to eject Robert Napier as chief executive. The idea here is that by jettisoning the man seen as chiefly responsible for the company's dreadful performance in recent years, Redland might convince shareholders to give its other directors the benefit of the doubt and reject Lafarge's hostile pounds 1.67bn takeover bid. As its description implies, deployment of such a defence always smacks a little of desperation.

For a start, there is the ominous fact that Captain Oates's act of self sacrifice didn't in practice work; Scott and the others perished anyway. And for seconds, there is the uncomfortable truth that in collecting a pounds 700,000 payoff as he wanders off into the night for a pee, Mr Napier isn't sacrificing anything. In departing into the storm, he seems to be taking with him the socks, remaining victuals and a couple of sleeping bags to boot. Providing Gallic pride doesn't get the better of Lafarge, and it sweetens its offer a little, the betting must still be with the French.

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