Donald Macintyre's Sketch: When it comes to Big Pharma, money talks

One of many things it’s hard to pin down about Ian Read is his accent, best described as “global Anglophone”. While his idioms are North American (It was no good seeing the mighty Pfizer’s takeover of Wyeth as a “cookie cutter” for an AstraZeneca merger, he told MPs) the speech tunes veer between quasi-Australian, mid-Atlantic, and a kind of cockney drawl. Missing, oddly, is any trace of his native Scotland.

But when you’re Big Pharma incarnate, intent on an M&A which will make you even Bigger Pharma, your reach is pretty transnational. Impassive behind his rimless glasses, occasionally allowing himself a notably uninfectious smile, he made you feel this was a company with which mere politicians tangle at their peril.

The Swedish Prime Minister’s complaint about broken promises and “negative consequences” of the company’s arrival in his country arose from his “misunderstanding of the facts”, Read explained. And senior US Democrat Carl Levin, who had opposed corporations shifting their domicile to lower tax jurisdictions like the UK, was “just one senator”, he said, rather as if he had been personally assured by every other Congress member that they would not obstruct him.

To its credit, the Committee was not intimidated. The MPs repeatedly pressed him, in vain. On what his promise that “20 per cent” of the company’s worldwide R&D force staying in the UK would mean in numbers of actual, er, people. It would be “premature” to give a figure, he explained. Invited by the Labour chairman Adrian Bailey to rebut claims that Pfizer was a “praying mantis” and a “shark that needed feeding” Read unveiled to MPs the “four principles” he had established for the company, The last of which —“a culture of ownership” – broke down into a snappily memorable acrostic, Own the business… Win the business (“and the ‘N’ may you surprise you” he said with perfect accuracy): No jerks! Impact. Trust. Get it? OWN IT.

Pursuing this, Tory Brian Binley – after telling Read: “What you’ve said is a lot of sales talk and very short on facts” – said he knew the Pfizer CEO carried a gold coin inscribed with “Straight Talk” on one side and “Own it” on the other. And that today Read seemed more focused on Ownership (presumably of AstraZeneca) than Straight Talk. This seemed like a deranged fantasy of Binley’s. But in fact he had merely done his homework, Read unblushingly produced the actual coin for the surprised MPs. 

By now we were lost in the mist-enshrouded peaks of higher capitalism. Read explained that the Takeover Panel could take the company to High Court at any point in the next five years, if it judged it to have broken its (heavily qualified) guarantees on the merger. Could he cite any prior examples of when this had actually happened, the Tory Robin Walker politely asked him? No, he couldn’t. It was probably the day’s killer question.

News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Bruce, left, with Cream bandmates Ginger Rogers, centre, and Eric Clapton in 1967
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
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 General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker