Alex Brummer on Business

Not just any broiges. An M&S broiges

By Alex Brummer, July 2, 2009

To mark the 125th anniversary of Marks & Spencer, executive chairman Sir Stuart Rose commissioned a glossy “coffee table” history, replete with accounts of the retailer’s innovations down the decades.

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TV turmoil will take Sky to a new high

By Alex Brummer, June 18, 2009

I bumped into James Murdoch at a party recently and he was in chipper mood.

At a time when both the writing and broadcast media are struggling, as a result of an advertising famine, the UK arm of the Murdoch empire looks to be emerging stronger than ever.

Much of the recent success can be attributed to Murdoch the younger, the likely heir to Rupert Murdoch’s empire , who at the end of 2007 stepped up to become the chief executive of News Corporation, Europe and Asia, and chairman of BritishSkyBroadcasting.

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Now fat cats have to fight for the cream

By Alex Brummer, June 4, 2009

The backlash began with Sir Fred Goodwin’s pension. When shareholders learnt that the former Royal Bank of Scotland’s chief executive pension pot had been doubled to £16m, providing him with a pension of £703,000 for life at the age of 50, the public anger was palpable. The directors responsible — former RBS chairman Sir Tom McKillop and pay committee boss Bob Scott — were required to step down.

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When supermarkets are superpowers

By Alex Brummer, May 21, 2009

As a sector, Britain’s grocers are having a good recession. While other firms, including the food suppliers, have been shedding jobs, the supermarket chains Tesco, J Sainsbury, Wm Morrison, Asda and Waitrose have been adding them. And although Marks & Spencer has had to reshape “Simply Food”, jettisoning some of the stores it bought from Somerfield as a job lot, its executive chairman Sir Stuart Rose believes that its food offering has turned the corner, and that same-store sales — the critical measure for retailers — will soon be expanding again.

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Darling has betrayed entrepreneurs

By Alex Brummer, May 7, 2009

Alistair Darling’s April budget marked the end of New Labour. It was the party’s final divorce from the City.

Several of Britain’s most successful entrepreneurs, including Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP and David Levin of United Business Media, have already upped sticks and moved their enterprises to Ireland because of efforts by HM Revenue and Customs to capture a bigger share of foreign earnings. Others are lining up to go.

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The 1930s again: Jews are blamed for the crisis

By Alex Brummer, April 23, 2009

The credit crunch, financial crisis and ensuing global recession have provided an opportunity for the rebirth of some unfortunate antisemitic stereotypes. Jews have played a prominent role in the current crisis, and not just as perpetrators but as problem solvers and victims too.

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Hedge funds aren’t evil. They could save us all

By Alex Brummer, April 7, 2009

As the credit crunch descended, the so-called “shadow banking” system, which includes hedge funds and private equity, attracted more than its fair share of opprobrium. In Germany, these groups, a symbol of free-wheeling Anglo-Saxon capitalism, were labelled “locusts”, and here in Britain the government launched a tax clampdown on private equity just as the financial system was seizing up.

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TV reality is harsh, Grade must tune in fast

By Alex Brummer, March 26, 2009

Michael Grade almost certainly missed his vocation. Listening to him at fundraising ORT events, he appears a natural for America’s “Borscht Belt” comedians who, before the days of cheap flights to Florida, toured the summer resorts in the Catskills. The ITV executive chairman is in need of every bit of quick wit he has at present.

Having risen to the peak of the establishment as chairman of the BBC in the wake of the clear-out after the Hutton report, he wrongfooted the media world in November 2006 when he abandoned his post to move to ITV.

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The man who steered the Pru to safety

By Alex Brummer, March 5, 2009

There is not much time for corporate small talk when you accompany Mark Tucker to watch Chelsea. The Prudential chief executive weighs up every move with the eye of a seasoned professional. Weaknesses and strengths are assessed coolly without the usual invective of the football fan.

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Sir Victor’s ‘safe’ Lloyds TSB is not so safe any more

By Alex Brummer, February 18, 2009

While researching my book on the credit crunch early last year, I met Lloyds TSB chairman Sir Victor Blank in a spacious office on London’s Gresham Street.

Blank, in his naturally laconic manner, was pleased that the bank he led had managed to avoid the worst of the toxic debt — based around US sub-prime mortgages — which had caused the credit markets to freeze over and led to the run on Northern Rock.

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