Donald Macintyre's Sketch: When it comes to Big Pharma, money talks
Donald Macintyre writes political sketches for The Independent, having been Jerusalem correspondent since 2004, covering Israel and the Occupied Territories, as well as travelling for the paper to Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Libya and Egypt. As Political Editor and then Chief Political Commentator, he previously covered the John Major and early Tony Blair era. He has written for the Daily Express, Sunday Times, Times and Sunday Telegraph, and Sunday Correspondent. He is the author of Mandelson and the Making of New Labour (2000).
Tuesday 13 May 2014
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.
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
£15 per hour: Ashdown Group: IT Analyst / Helpdesk - 2 Month Contract - £15ph ...
£35000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This group is the world's secon...
£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Permanent Sales Support Coordinator is...
£30000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fast growing cloud accounting...