01 April 1998

DESPITE A DOUGHTY DEFENCE and an eleventh hour cliff-hanger, high street catalogue chain Argos fell to the £1.9 billion hostile bid from Great Universal Stores. Its fate was sealed by Schroder Investment Management, holder of a 15% stake in Argos, which announced at the last minute it had opted for the GUS offer of 650p per share, thereby boosting total acceptances to 59.9% of Argos’ equity. Once the die was cast, Argos chief executive Stuart Rose and his senior management team met GUS chairman Lord Wolfson to discuss the formalities of the transfer of ownership. For mealy-mouthed sanctimony, Rose’s statement to the press takes some beating: ‘The last thing on my mind is what happens to me’, he oozed. ‘I’ve been up to my armpits for the last six to eight weeks. There is no reason to be bitter.’ [Indeed, there is not! Rose stood to gain whatever the outcome of the battle. He collared a signing-on fee of £180,000 just for walking through Argos’ door only two months ago, plus a two year contract at £320,000 pa.. Another fact of interest to students of City ethics - an oxymoron, if ever there was one - is that while Schroder’s corporate finance wing was advising Argos on defensive strategy, its investment management sibling was planning to present Argos’ head on a plate to the Mancunian predator.]

Rose has since ridden off into the sunset, saddlebags stuffed with £540,000 - despite GUS’ invitation to remain as Argos chief executive with a seat on the GUS main board.