Peter Mandelson inserts his sticky fingers into the Woolworths pick'n'mix take over / bankruptcy / insolvency
Lucky old Ardeshir Naghshineh who escaped from Iran in 1979 when the iron democrat Shah Pahlevi was rudely overthrown, with but £2,000 of jewwllery and his lovely wife Clare, the daughter of military historian, Correlli Barnett.
Having seen his 10% stake in Woolworth's become almost worthless and losing him him £5 Mn he will be delighted that "a Minister" from the Ministry of Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) - the department so skilfully run by Lord Mandelson of Foy ("We are intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich." , called John Varley (Downside , Oriel, and solicitor and devout Catholic) , chief executive at Barclays on his ever present Blackberry , as well as the Bank of Ireland's Burdale divison and GMAC, to ask why the banks were pushing the 99-year old pic 'n' mix retailer and purveyor of cheap Chinese made tat for the masses into administration.
Ardeshir Naghshineh, no slouch when £5 Mn. of his ( well probably HBOS actually after a major re-financing of his company Targetflow in 2002) wrote to the retailer’s entire board this afternoon to ask them for one final meeting to discuss a deal.
Meanwhile the BBC is negotiating to buy upWoolies 40 % stake in 2Entertain, the DVD business, for a fugure not unadjacent to £100 Mn. The pension fund is entitled to the first £50 Mn. of any 2 Entertain disposal under an agreement struck between the trustees and the Woolworths board last January which would almost meet the pension fund deficit of 58.2 million pounds as at August 2nd.
At stake of course are the jobs of 30,000 voters and the pensions of 20,000 pensioners which are threatened by a massive shortfall on their pension fund.
Mr Naghshineh (says the Times) declined to comment, but it is understood the Iranian tycoon has found financial backers who could give the company an immediate cash injection.
They also report that Mr Naghshineh is seriously considering the futile gesture of legal action against the board if the company goes into administration. The board meanwhile are anxious to avoid breaking the law by trading whilst insolvent. They are desperately trying to juggle their cash position by not paying suppliers so they can meet the payroll on Friday.
It is interesting at this point to consider a letter John Varley wrote to staff when the bank decided to reject the Queen's shillin' ad take the ones on offer from the Middle East (text Daily Telegraph) which includes the following....
The conversations we had around the Board table over that period were very clear: even in ordinary times, it is important for a business to have the right to determine independently what its strategy should be. And that point is even truer of extraordinary times like these. You don’t want your risk management compromised. You don’t want your strategic options constrained.Perhaps nobody has told Peter that the Government (well not yet anyway) don't own Barclays.
It was very clear from the conversations that I had with the UK Government over that weekend that it would, as a shareholder, influence our dividend policy; it would influence our lending policy; and it would become involved in the formulation of strategy. Of course the role of the Board is to protect the interest of shareholders and to create the circumstances in which, over time, we can maximise value on their behalf. And that was what was in the mind of the Board as we came to our decisions: we felt that our ability to do what our shareholders would expect of us would be compromised if Barclays was nationalised.
Whilst Barclays have produced a seruies of fraudulent Balance sheets , and declared fat dividends on the basis of non-existent profits we have little sympathy for Mr Varley et al.
Our advice to Mr Varley and his counterparts at BOI and GMAC is to tell the slimy reptile Mandelson to fuck off and take his probing fingers and place them where they might receive a more receptive welcome.
UPDATE : 5.30 GMT - At 6pm Woolworths Board will officially announce they are calling in their advisors, deloittes as administrators this will not inlcude 2 Entertain.
UPDATE & APOLOGY : We regret if we gave the impression that only the unelected Lord Mandelson had been poking his person into the business of Barclays / Woolworths. It now appears from a contact within the IT department of Woolworths that another unelected person -the deeply loathsome and unelectable overweight busybody, shrieking Duchess Shrita Vadera had been active on the e-mail front in sticking her ample form into proceedings.
Copies of the alleged electronic messages are said to be forthcoming ... keep your eyes skinned.
Meanwhile our advice remains the same as that proffered to Varley in the case of Mandelsons limp wristed entreaties - tell them to fuck off. Not the first time of course that she has stuck her nose in ... see Thursday, November 08, 2007 - Northern Rock - full figures revealed - Ugandan babe exposed as busy body and unwanted by Darling