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Sugar and Hornby: why they're hired

Robert Peston | 18:45 UK time, Sunday, 7 June 2009

It's a tale of two appointments - and of two rather different controversies.

Gordon Brown's "you're hired" to Sir Alan Sugar has elicited - as the most polite reaction - wry smiles and chortles from the business leaders I've asked about it.

Of course, they must all be bloomin' snobs and stinkin' elitists.

But I think if Sir Alan were judging the vague statements from the government about what he'll actually do as official "Enterprise Champion", I suspect he would launch one of his characteristics tirades against a business plan that seems a bit lacking in detail and firm commitments.

But he apparently thinks we should be a bit more tolerant of G Brown than he is of the contestants on his show.

The other appointment - which is pretty certain but not yet signed off - is that of Andy Hornby as the new chief executive of Alliance Boots.

The owners of the business, Stefano Pessina and the private equity firm, KKR, are extremely keen to have him - even though he's what you might describe as a brave choice. Pessina has wanted him for weeks.

As the erstwhile chief executive of HBOS who was at the helm when it avoided full nationalisation only by being swallowed up by Lloyds, well his reputation isn't quite what it was.

Now it's fair to say that the £11bn of losses HBOS announced for 2008 weren't all his fault. Some of the strategic errors that led to the loss were the legacy of his predecessor, Sir James Crosby.

But he's not blameless.

The counter-argument is that until he became HBOS's chief executive, he had an outstanding track record as retailer (as evidenced by Boots's attempt to poach him from HBOS to be CEO as long ago as 2003, when he was the most golden of the UK's young execs).

Apart from being brainy, Hornby is likeable and self-effacing.

There's just that slight problem of having broken quite a substantial bank.

He's almost certainly unemployable at a substantial publicly listed company: the big investment institutions wouldn't have him in a business they control (or so leading headhunters and brokers tell me).

But Alliance Boots is a private business and can do what it likes.

Although given that it'll want to sell the company back to the stock market in three or four years, Hornby will have to go on something of a charm offensive over the coming years - if that is he has the stomach for taking a job that will see him back in the spotlight and will not elicit the kindest of commentary from much of the media.

Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    I would not be surprised if Hornby's appointment results in a public backlash against Boots. I would certainly not enter one of their stores whilst he was employed by them. I trust the British public will make him unemployable in this country.

  • Comment number 2.

    Since Alan Sugar has apparently been appointed to champion small to medium-sized business asking city-based business leaders what they think is besides the point. Many of them have no track record starting a business from scratch with little or no capital. Frankly, though he's not the most sophisticated operator, Alan Sugar's advice to start up businesses is probably a great deal more valuable than anything you'll learn from a city slicker.

  • Comment number 3.

    Quite why Sir Alan is held to be a business guru is a mystery - his company Amstrad was in the same position as Dell at one time, until a series of disastrous decisions by him almost broke his company (remember the emailer?).

    Sugar's appointment is just another gimmick from Brown, just like his Youtube 'performance' and his solicitous enquiries about Susan Boyle.

  • Comment number 4.

    Just delighted him and the other ex-Asda cronies have nothing to do with the company formerly known as HBOS anymore.... the grocer-boy returns to retail - there's a surprise, although stacking shelves was where I thought his next career move might be.

    Good luck Alliance Boots - you'll need it. One word of caution though - watch out for any mention from Tommy Train-Set of "we're a strong company - with a strong capital base". Next stop might be some bad medicine ...

  • Comment number 5.

    So your reward for destroying a company and forcing the taxpayer to bail it out resulting in the loss of (probably) tens of thousands of jobs is to be given a chance to destroy another one. Surely the Government should be using its regulatory powers to disqualify Hornby and the others from being Directors for a very long time - another example of Labour loosing the plot?

  • Comment number 6.

    I helped build up this bank to be one of the bext for 25 years. I and others feel shafted by Hornby's regime and could not stomach shopping at Boots knowing we were lining his pockets. We lost our savings and part of our heritage and see no contrition from Mr Hornby.

  • Comment number 7.

    Interesting point from Tug (comment 1). I suspect that 99% of Boots customers have no idea who the chief executive is and wouldn't really care. A clear difference indeed with the political system, where policy and the political 'brand' are clearly associated with the leader. Companies always have a tough choice to make - occasionally (Virgin comes to mind) they benefit from brand association with the chief executive, but much more often (Ratners or RBS) it seems to be damaging.

    I have written more about the appointment of Alan Sugar and what it says about the politics (and economics) of the next year of Gordon Brown's government. There were two announcements hidden in Brown's press conference on Friday which may foreshadow potential political earthquakes - if the government has the confidence to quickly seize the initiative:

    https://www.knowingandmaking.com/2009/06/two-hidden-stories-which-could.html

    And for those of us less politically minded there's always the Apprentice, which I'll be covering with a live commentary at https://www.knowingandmaking.com/2009/06/live-blogging-apprentice-series-5_07.html from 9pm...


  • Comment number 8.

    Dear Mr Peston,

    It worries me when flashy dressers like Alan Sugar are appointed to important positions. Furthermore, when I have bought Mr Sugar's products my experiences have been less than satisfactory. I will quote the Amstrad 286 computer as a learning experience. Somewhere along the line I believe that the name 'Amstrad' was dropped in favour of Elonex. Am I correct in this? Has anyone else had difficulties with products made by Mr Sugar or am I the only one?

    dudekenny 67

  • Comment number 9.

    How can the thiefs can clean up the system?

    We, the voters can only clean up all of them.


    Elections now.

  • Comment number 10.

    Both good moves, sugar because he's a populist that explains business in a was that people can understand, and hornby because he's what they used to call the talent.

    Having been a good student of Bobby's book that says a bit about Boots, the debt inside it, and the fact that it was once a good taxpaying entity i hope this situation can be restored,and Mr Hornby will need to think a bit beyond pairing a sandwhich with a bag of crisps to do it.

  • Comment number 11.

    Andy Hornby was very much liked by his staff at HBOS, his problem, in common with many senior managers at the banks now in trouble is that he is a retailer and not a banker. I believe that he tried to reign back the over-reliance on borrowed capital and some of the dodgy property and business lending but by this stage Peter Cummings was already out of control and untouchable (from what I hear).

    It would have taken a career banker of serious weight to have dealt with it, even if the City had been prepared to accept the downturn in profits and provision for bad debts, which would have been unlikely in 2006.

    My guess is that he will be a raging success at Boots and probably develop a career in retail turnaround for private equity owners.

    There are better targets than Andy Hornby for the public's ire e.g. Cummings, Crosby and Fred Goodwin

  • Comment number 12.

    I don't see how an election will sort it out.
    There are thieves as you call them in all parties not just labour.
    What we need is a coalition government, this would end political arguing, would stop party to party arguing, and would solve the economic and political crisis.

  • Comment number 13.

    Andy Hornby may be likeable and self-effacing, but he may be too cautious -

    https://moneyistheway.blogspot.com/2007/10/andy-hornby-time-to-be-cautious.html

    As for LordAlan, he better leave The Apprentice now, because he can't be in government and have a hit TV show.

  • Comment number 14.

    Nice to see Gordo still helping the hard pressed bankers (sorry families)

  • Comment number 15.

    Alan Sugar -- if appointed raises a serious conflict of interest.
    As Lord Sugar ???? He would be a member of the Labour Government.
    If his next release of the The Apprentice goes ahead, Lib Dems and Conservatives would have the RIGHT to demand equal "party election TV time".
    Sorry Gordon you don't have the right to keep appointing "Lords" to wipe your ????? nose !


  • Comment number 16.

    Sir Alan is doing his best hiring annd firing! training apprentices in any skill! gosh, all we can hope is there are one or two more intelligent guys left training the next generation.

  • Comment number 17.

    I was just awaiting the pre-- moderation sorry!

  • Comment number 18.

    Listening to Sugar on the Andrew Marr show he did not seem to have a clue about the job other than it is the same as he has been doing. When asked if this was window dressing by the great leader he said 'I hope not'!

    Slippery Mandy was also on and got in a tizzy finally needing correction by Marr.

  • Comment number 19.

    Sir Alan Sugar will according to Number 10 support Lady Vadera ( bank bail-out Tsarina ), Mervyn Davis ( banker) to : " to give advice on how to ensure small firms and entrepreneurs make the most of the real help available from Government and other organisations. He will champion the causes of viable small companies with banks and help to ensure the voices of small firms and entrepreneurs are heard by Government, suppliers and other entities.

    Areas Sir Alan may look at include access to finance, prompt payment, how to handle the downturn and how to start a new business. The post will be unpaid."

    Matter of interest what about small businesses made unviable by the monumental collapse of banking prudence and Tripartite Committee macroprudential oversight? Sir Alan ignores them, does he?

    Given the inequitable and preferential treatment the FTSE boys ( probably the snobs you talk to, Robert) get from BoE and HMG compared with SMEs its good to see small business get some attention. I fear Sir Alan will go the same way as Digby Jones when he meets the bureaucratic and banking club brick walls.







  • Comment number 20.

    Its unbelievable to hear that anyone would consider Andy Hornby let alone employ a failed banker. This guy has cost us, the taxpayer, billions.

  • Comment number 21.

    Who cares about either of these appointments...?

    AS is not going to solve the problems facing UK SME's. That is just a publicity stunt by a desperate government

    As for Boots, consumers don't care who runs it. They want to go in and buy deoderant and razor blades. It is of modest interest to shareholders only.

  • Comment number 22.

    There has got to be room for Sir Alex Ferguson at this magical new Round-table.Britains most successful leader/manager of talented youth.I think that a few of the crooks with their hands in the charity box could do with "the hairdryer treatment" this manager allegedly employs!

  • Comment number 23.

    Frankly I have no time at all for either of them. Anyone who has seen Amstrad's emailer would soon appreciate that Sugar didn't make his money from using his own technological intuition. In 2005 Sugar also predicted that the iPod would be "dead, finished, gone, kaput" by the following Christmas. Having sold Amstrad he's now mainly involved in property or in other words, not doing anything particularly useful in terms of developing the economy.

    Personally, I wouldn't give him a job doing anything.

    As to Hornby then I'm truly surprised he hasn't been disqualified as a director and so couldn't get this level of job ever again. Maybe Brown will now rush that through....

  • Comment number 24.

    As Mandelson's leaked email today showed - Gordon Brown is obsessed with reality programmes in an attempt to "make himself normal". What with writing to Susan Boyle, the guy is SO DESPERATE its pathetic.

    Anyone who ruins the country needs to be "fired"... it would be funny if it wasnt so sad. Dont blame the banks, blame the man who left us with no money when the recession hit.

  • Comment number 25.

    Inoncom (7) some coverage by one or more of the red tops plus a little gentle leafleting outside a few of the stores would raise the public awareness to a sufficient level.

    roryharrison (11) an amiable man who takes a job for which he is not qualified cannot escape the consequences. What if he had tried his hand a brain surgery (how hard can it be)? Of course we have processes which protect us from amateur brain surgeons, sadly we have nothing which protects us from amateur bankers.


  • Comment number 26.


    ''Apart from being brainy, Hornby is likeable and self-effacing.''

    A lot of very successful people of his ilk are, they are trained to be (Oxford graduate, followed by MBA at Harvard etc). The same things were said of Tony Blair but that did not stop him standing up in parliament claiming Iraq could launch a chemical attack in 45 minutes...among other things... when he felt his personal views were more important than the truth he was expert at using his charm and spin to both appear pleasant and to cover up the underlying intent..

    Just because he comes accross as being likeable and charming when you interviewed him in Sept 2008 does not mean that he is of good character.


    An indiviidual of good character would have foresaken his pay-off and pension from HBOS, apologised unreservadly and made a sizeable donation to a charity who supports those who are about to get kicked out of their homes, or better still become a volunteer for them. After 5 years of that nobody would have a problem with him becomming a CEO again.. That would be an individual of good character, but I do not recall anyone doing such a thing amongst our ruling political, judicial, buisiness or media elite.

    He has the CV and he undoubtably 'moves in the right circles', the same type of cicles Sir James Crosby moves in, one of the chief architects of HBOS failure...moved to the FSA by his mates in some independant commitee (don't make me laugh) or other!!!

    Only removed from the FSA following an outcry. Even then he was not removed for being in a 'conflict of interest' position, he was allowed to claim the moral high ground and to 'fall on his own sword'. Yet another sure sign someone is a member of the elite, people in the middle classes or below, they just get sacked...but not the elite...I am not making this up..when was the last time anyone ever heard of a CEO of a major company getting sacked. Half the commons should be sacked!!!

    All this is typical of the behaviour of our political, financial, media and judicial elite, complicit in an unwritten bond between them which simply states.

    'maintain that which is in our interests for those whom have attained this extremely privaliged status, maintain the status quo'


    Jericoa


  • Comment number 27.

    Gordon needs someone to keep an eye on the lord of the flies ,well he would wouldnt he. Sweet to go with the sowerr

    As for Hornby he was last seen in the wrong trousers till wallace and grommet tracked him down.

  • Comment number 28.

    Photographic evidence for 27,sue me!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUEoLn2NWcM

  • Comment number 29.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 30.

    Napoleon once dismissed Britain as a "Nation of shopkeepers".

    Are we now fated to become a nation of spivs and barrowboys?

    Do we really deserve such role models?
    Perhaps we do.

  • Comment number 31.

    blog 26 - Only person I can recall is John Profumo - but that's going back more than 40 years.....can't expect any of the current crop of pigs to foresake the trough...
    TM St Helena

  • Comment number 32.

    hahahaha hehehehe

    BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS OR CHUMPS?

    As if concocting a way to lose to the Dutch at cricket, we now have Sugar in the govt! talk about desperate gimmicks; but putting all these unelected people in the cabinet or into 'champion' jobs - is it up to 7 now? - really is very wrong

    I guess Brown might survive beyond Tuesday but only because of cold-blooded calculations by some of the more senior cabinet ministers that they would rather lose an election 11 months from now than 3 months from now or 6 months from now

    If Gordon is in to reality TV could I nominate him, the govt, in fact the whole of the UK to enter 'Just for Laughs' our excellent comedy festival over here in Montreal, which you may have seen excerpts of on Channel 4

    As for Boots - well they are a hollowed-out, over-leveraged husk of what they once were, so getting a disgraced banker in seems perfect

  • Comment number 33.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 34.

    I saw Sir Alan greatly praising our Gordons' record and skills as chancellor.
    "Praising"???!!!
    Meanwhile back in the real world...
    So Mr Hornby is going into Boots.
    There are quite a few people that LLoyds shareholders would like to see in boots.....concrete ones.

  • Comment number 35.

    You don't mention what part Alan Sugar's winning of a government computer contract plays in all this. Probably absolutely nothing, but politics is a mirky world and I do wonder if Sugar is actually up to the part especially when he was so easily pulled apart by interviewers on Sky

    I do speculate at his motivations

    For Hornby, he is lucky that he has some earlier success in another retailer. The fall of HBOS and his involvement we will only ever know the government version because of the contract clauses unless we can actually get an inquiry. It seems academic to me that you ignore the role of the tripartite system set up by Brown and says more about your journalism than it does anything else.

  • Comment number 36.

    A brave move by Boots Alliance.

  • Comment number 37.

    Gordon Brown was an excellent chancellor,
    and he is a superb economist
    he is attributed with having "saved the western world from true financial meltdown" and the american's are confused at how badly he has been doing at the polls recently,
    during G20, I saw much more about where Mrs Obama was visiting rather than what was actually achieved,
    it seems the media are detirmined to stem public opinion against him, and they have achieved this

  • Comment number 38.

    Gordon Brown says banks will not 'reward failure'

    ... but retail will.

    Well done Andy - that Harvard education has not been wasted on you.

    https://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/banking_and_finance/article5692506.ece

  • Comment number 39.

    Sir Alan is now a property investor and no longer a beacon to indrustry.

    Also if you add in salary, travel, and comunication costs I have yet to see ANY of the apprentships tasks actually make money, and most would never have a repeat client. They are all fast buck and smoke and mirrors, but then thats G.Brown (execpt his fast buck is spending and not earing)

  • Comment number 40.

    The ironic thing is that I try to shop at Lloyds Pharmacy when I can instead of Boots, because they're usually cheaper...

  • Comment number 41.

    From memory Boots is in massive debt, I wonder which bank is servicing that debt?

  • Comment number 42.

    Boots have been on the slide since they closed their library and took over Timothy Whites. This has left people like me wondering what they are for as any small independent pharmacist can service the public just as well as Boots without the Head Office and the logistics. Now they have employed the second biggest business illiterate in the country, no doubt at a fancy salary, so I think I will stick with the little man.

    With regard to Mr Sugar, or is that Sir Alan or Lord Sugar (funny how these state socialists love titles), if he wants to become a fig-leaf to one of the most anti-enterprise governments in history then he can get on with it. He will not doubt become as disillusioned as everyone else in due course.

    I do agree though that something has to be done for SMEs at the moment but that is more about liquidity than any need for a jovial character. There are plenty of characters already amongst the SMEs, yours truly included.

  • Comment number 43.

    #32 somali_pirate

    'As for Boots - well they are a hollowed-out, over-leveraged husk of what they once were, so getting a disgraced banker in seems perfect'

    Does that mean that they will be going the same way as that other 'favourite' high street brand Woolworths ?

    LDV is about to go into administration because the owners can't get enough government subsidy and yet Oleg Deripaska is buying Opel through his Gaz company (but that deal gets some subsidy, 2.2bn allegedly)
    Why don't the governments (UK and German) cut out the middleman (Deripaska) and just buy it themselves from the administrators

  • Comment number 44.

    "38. At 08:52am on 08 Jun 2009, willhay99 wrote:
    Gordon Brown says banks will not 'reward failure'"

    Yes but the labour party will, so far they have deselected a hand full of MP's over unusual expense claims, insisting that some cash is paid back, but allowing them to stay on and get the massive golden good bye when the stand down at the general election. Is his policy that MP's found with their hand in the cookie jar stand down at the next election and do NOT force ANY by-elections.

    Only ONE MP has done the honourable thing and stood down forcing a by-election and losing out on his golden good bye. And the moment he did the party started spinning against him.

    Before anyone jumps in this situation also applies to all the other parties!

  • Comment number 45.

    About Alan Sugar's appointment:
    "Of course, they must all be bloomin' snobs and stinkin' elitists." - And of course they all have successful businesses that haven't been impacted by our current economic woes.
    At least we know where we stand with AMS; more than could be said for some or all of them. Anyway that old boys club (the Civil Service) might get to hear "You're Fired" down its hallowed corridors in the near future to cheer us all up.

  • Comment number 46.

    I loved Daniel Hannan's description of Gordon coming out of nemesis like Terminator, clawing his way out of the smoke and debris of yet another monumental disaster, to cling to power.

    Does Sir Alan realise that he represents that claw? A desperate and pathetic move to give a dead party some vestige of the appearance of life.

    Will Nick and Margaret be offered positions in the government? If not, why not?

  • Comment number 47.

    i agree with 12 on that.
    hiring from business was always a good idea but why sugar thats the wrong move.
    it seems the government have sunk to the lowest denominator and aimed at the publicity and popular vote a poor move even for neu labour and its management team.

  • Comment number 48.

    Who says rewards for failure don't exist in this market? Good luck to Mr. Hornby. He has to look after himself just as anyone else does when faced with redundancy through corporate failure under his stewardship, whatever the historic reasons and inherited poor practices. He appears to have done so if he gets the Alliance Boots job.

    There is a more alarming overview of this situation for the UK. We have a society that has been created over the past 3 to 4 decades, that rewards failure above success and supports a highly socialised, less productive society, where the state rules. The ever squeezed private sector is asked to contribute more in taxes for less in reward. Madness. George Orwell was light years ahead of his time.

  • Comment number 49.

    So the great AMS is going to advise on business?? Has anyone taken a look at Amshold Group lately??

    The latest Audited Accounts reveal that properies were sold last year to boost profitability - after the top of the market. A Directors revaluation saw 12% reduction in the portfolio value of approx £40m, very conservative considering it is exposed predominantly to London Commercial property, and surely more right downs to come in the year to June 2009??

    Over £110m of borrowings need to be refinanced, with all of it on the bullet in 2011, hardly good planning.

    With respect, perhaps the guru needs to put his own house in order, before telling our SME's what they are doing wrong. It's not a bad business, but it's hardly outperforming anyone else in Commercial property. It just goes to show that the recession has caught everyone out, including Sugar. (sorry Lord Alan). He doesn't have all of the answers, and he didn't see this recession coming. It's amazing what some people will do for a Peerage.

  • Comment number 50.

    I'm actually kind of surprised that Alan Sugar didn't tell Gordon to go for a hike.

    It reminds me of local authority attempts some years ago to prove they are really 'green' by recruiting from amongst their ranks "Eco Champions". These champions sadly weren't actually taken very seriously by the operational managers and few of their ideas and recommendations were implemented, except for the slogans like 'turn the lights off' and turn the printer off when you go to a meeting in the afternoon. (Note, not 'we'll put in movement detectors to turn the lights off when no-ones around').

    Sadly, I think much the same will happen for Alan Sugar. When push comes to shove, he'll be thanked politely for his comments and ideas but real money and effort won't be put behind them.

  • Comment number 51.

    The capacity for Nu Labour to employ people off the tele knows no bounds

    If they spent half the time on trying to be a decent gov that they spent on spinning and populist clap-trap, we might not be IT as deeply as we are!

  • Comment number 52.

    10 October 2008

    "The millionaire Amstrad founder is thought to have paid £1.8m for 57 million shares in the company, making up a 3.88% stake."

    The man has foresight.

    Let's face it he's an amusing entertainer. He hit lucky in the last century but wouldn't cut it now. Crash Man is just using him as a bit of 'Window Dressing'. Will he have to have a makeover?



  • Comment number 53.

    I think it's a test for Hornby... Alliance Boots will need real managing and it's not clear that as a company it can beat the internet (if it joins it then like manmy others the best handling of the legacy business becomes a very difficult problem) ---

    The PR apects mentioned in the first post shows how out of touch big business and big politics (and big banking) still are despite the credit crunch collapse and the MPs exes fiasco----- They're not stupid people so they and their brand/Pr people, must be counting on 'riding out' the inevitable storm about fat cats helping a fallen fat cat back up to the corporate trough....

    But in this new political environment the news cycle isn't quite as easy to manage as it was a couple of years back....

  • Comment number 54.

    If Sugar cannot even get the winner of the Apprentice right what chance does he have of getting GB out of trouble? Why didn't Gordon sack Tessa and put Joanna in her place? And least the security arrangements for the Olympics might be guaranteed.

  • Comment number 55.

    Im pretty sure that we'll soon see some high profile BBC types 'coming out' and confessing their undying love for the conservatives

    In the interests of balance of course

    Assuming there are conservatives occupying high profile positions at the BEEB that is

  • Comment number 56.

    Shouldn't there be a law against men like Mr Hornby being in charge of anything ever again? He is a monumental failure that spread misery to thousands of people (redundancies, negative equity, loss of investment, etc) and walked away with millions that he doesn't ever have to pay back.

    Given Alliance Boots' high debt (and how he dealt with leverage at HBOS), this is indeed a brave choice. Will it fail? Probably.

    This man clearly has no shame, and although he is not of the scale of a Fred the Shred, he should be shunned by civilised society, and any companies that employ him as well.

    Unfortunately, people have short memories.

  • Comment number 57.

    Hornby should be DISQUALIFIED for TRADING WHILST INSOLVENT.

  • Comment number 58.

    So we have a CONTINUATION of the SPIV mentality? GOOD ON YOU GORDY!!

  • Comment number 59.

    ''''''''37. At 08:44am on 08 Jun 2009, JLFBlog wrote:
    Gordon Brown was an excellent chancellor,
    and he is a superb economist''''''''''''


    He was a disaster as a chancellor: inheriting a growing economy with sound fundamental finances and creating a debt ridden nigh on bankrupt 3rd world basket case

    He is not an economist: he got a history degree and the only proper job he ever had was a short stint as a journo on Scottish TV

  • Comment number 60.

    HBOS,WHILST HORNBY WAS AT THE HELM IGNORED A STATUTORY DEMAND THEN SPAT

    FEATHERS WHEN A PETITION WAS ABOUT TO BE SERVED. . . .

  • Comment number 61.

    HORNBY has got the JOB? MORE REWARD FOR FAILURE THIS GUY SHOULD BE

    BANKRUPT AND DISQUALIFIED AS A COMPANY DIRECTOR FOR 15 YEARS FOR TRADING

    WHILST INSOLVENT. .

  • Comment number 62.

    Sir Alan Sugar's appointment is a shamefully populist move by a government that is dazzled by celebrity and craves the attention that they bring. Sir Alan Sugar's televisual feast benefits no one apart from Sir Allan himself - in this aspect, agreeing to front the television programme is perhaps the best business decision he has made in the past few years. The contestants seem driven by the desire to appear on television rather than the desire to succeed in business and the 'challenges' that they are set are facile and pointless - it's entertainment, not business.
    But why has the Government decided to hire a 'New Business Czar'? Do we actually need one? What is he actually going to do?
    For it to be announced on the same weekend as the screening of his final TV instalment is fine publicity indeed - for Sir Alan Sugar of course, but what does the Government get out of it? To pay Sir Alan the normal expenses of £175 a day for attending Parliament is hardly going to attract a serious international businessman to abandon his other committments is it - or are the government proposing to pay him as ministerial fee as well.
    A waste of time and a waste of money by the Government I would suggest, the government is spinning furiously, frantically grasping at any straws that aren't immediately connected to expenses and trying to deflect attention away from themselves.

  • Comment number 63.

    #43 Bob Rocket ask why don't the German and UK governments cut out the middleman (Deripaska) and just buy it themselves from the administrators..

    Presumably Bob you're referring here to Opel and Vauxhall and what you suggest is a good idea. However, although the German Govt may well consider such a move it is unlikely that the UK Govt would given all the effort - along with it's pals in the City - it has put into deindustrialising the UK.

  • Comment number 64.

    Alan Sugar appointment is an excellent move. His business experience is invaluable for UK businesses both large and small.
    Boots controversial move to employ Hornby is understandable. With £13 million profit in 2008/2009 over £20 billion turnover (which can only get worse with recession) the company is currently valued at about £130 million and its debt is currently £9 billion. It is not rocket science to see where Boots is going. The banks (unlike HBOS) are not idle and cant's wait for the catch. Perhaps Hornby can stave them off while Boots Protest and Prefecto anti-solvency cream takes effect.

  • Comment number 65.

    NO DOUBT GOODWIN will be heading up a major business very SOON?

    Another ONE that should be DISQUALFIED FOR 15 YEARS. . . .

  • Comment number 66.

    Andy Hornby should be a good move by Boots. He has an oustanding record in retail and it was only when he changed industry to Banking (as they wanted to follow a retail model) that he started to struggle as other within HBOS were taking risks they shouldn't but Hornby had too learn quickly what was going on.

    He should be good for Boots and if headhunters are saying he is unemployable in a PLC then they are making a huge mistake as most retailers would and should be glad to have someeone with his knowledge on board

  • Comment number 67.

    Remember when Alan Sugar was supposed to bring success to Tottenham Hotspur? And on The Apprentice he hired someone who, in her interviews, didn't know the meaning of 'turnover'.

  • Comment number 68.

    would you hire someone who has overseen the death of 150 soldiers, badly managed the economy, watched the banks collapse, sold gold at bottom price, raided pension funds, ignored pensioners, ended 10% tax band, lied consistently to the voters - well, will you be doing it again?


  • Comment number 69.

    Can we expect Sugar to run a reshuffle for Gordon along the lines of The Apprentice... You're fired - oh you've already resigned, You're... come back!
    I predict Gordon will have the same success as Mr Sugar's previous apprentices - very little!

  • Comment number 70.

    Mr Hornby should only be employed by the Inland Waterways Board; then he could only help to destroy river banks !!!

  • Comment number 71.

    I will certainly never shop at Boots again and I hope many more people will take the same action. Andy Hornby caused misery to thousands of people and is now being rewarded with another huge salary and pension. What an unfair unequal country Britain has become in the last 30 years.

  • Comment number 72.

    Why doesn't Gordon Brown take Alan Sugar's place on the next series of The Apprentice for the BBC?

    Or how about the cast of Eastenders taking over the Cabinet at Westminster and the Cabinet moving into tv studios, to entertain the public to a daily dose of drama? Gordon could play Heathcliff. I know Heathcliff isn't one of the characters in Eastenders, but that needn't stand in the way.

    How about if we all paid our tv licence to the Labour party and Parliament moved to Bush House? Then the Houses of Parliament could be turned into one huge, luxury shopping mall......


  • Comment number 73.

    Two regular jounalist problems highlighted in this blog.
    1) mistaking an entertaining TV programme for real life. Alan Suger plays a part in an entertainment and is at the sametime a successful business man.
    2) People can't make and learn from mistakes. They must be punished rather than taking that experience, learning from it and using it in a new context.

    Next week the lack of enterprise and risk taking in British business

  • Comment number 74.

    Alan Sugar has given up a lot for a Lordship and its now open season for the press to bring out the rather less than textbook approach of how he grew his business.

    Will he be a poacher turned gamekeeper? No he will be a middle aged man who needs a challenge and thinks his TV presence will give him the upper hand.

    Its good that he doesn't suffer fools gladly but no doubt teh bookies will be placing odds on how long he stays as a Labour Minister.

    What I would like to know is with all these unelected Lords in government, if Brown finally does the right thing and goes. How will Mandleson constitutionally take up the post when he hasn't been elected and has no chance of ever getting elected?

  • Comment number 75.

    I suspect AMS is doing quite well under GB in terms of public money contracts. I guess he couldn't say no to the great leader

  • Comment number 76.

    My humble understanding is that Hornby did a good job at the retailers he was at before HBOS.

    He then made a complete pig's ear of it at HBOS.

    What can we learn from this?

    Boots is probably a very good 'fit' for his abilities.

    Banking certainly isn't!

  • Comment number 77.

    heyhogmaggie isn't going to shop at boots which if it will hurt anyone it will be the staff of Boots. If you want to shop ethically there are more positive ways to do it.

  • Comment number 78.

    His "outstanding track record as retailer" was earned at a time of unprecedented consumer growth. He would have had to have been pretty useless to have failed. It was a case of being in the right places at the right time, so often the real reason behind success in business.

    Anyway, Boots is a basket case. Nobody decent and with a CV worth preserving would want the job.

  • Comment number 79.

    I think Hornby is undoubtedly qualified and experienced in this area and will forever regret not taking the job when offered in 2003. It's all very well running a big company smoothly, but if you don't understand the core business you will sail smoothly onto the rocks.

    As for Alan Sugar, most of his income comes from his very large property portfolio. He did very well out of the 80s, shame the same couldn't be said for his shareholders, but I'm sure the government contract for Viglen will ensure he backs Brown until it's time to bail out again

  • Comment number 80.

    Another concern of mine is that maybe we don't want Sir Alan to be an enterprise tsar. At the worst, this could just be an additional cost without any real benefit.

    The most concerning aspect of this is that Lord Sugar (as he would be called) is unelected. Over other famous entrepreneurs, he appears to have been chosen because he is a television celebrity. It'll be Theo Paphitis or Peter Jones next.

    By trying to ride the crest of other people's successes, Labour are trying to correct their own PR nightmare. I'm still surprised they refuse to believe they are finished.

  • Comment number 81.

    LDV is now in administration and the suspicion is that the production line will now be bought up and shipped off somewhere overseas.

    This will be an interesting test of the Govt's pledge to rebalance the economy. Would they step in and prevent that or will they do as the City would want and do nothing?

  • Comment number 82.

    Alan Sugar - bless 'im! I've a feeling he's slipped into the Richard Branson role, being wheeled out when the Gov't wanted a business entrepreneur to bring their formidable powers to such things as, er, litter. So, A.M.S gets a peerage, a phot-op, and a burnished rep, and Gordy looks like he's doing something (albeit a bit indefinite). As to whether Sugar will do anything, I reckon if he does he will surprise the hell out of Gordy and Mandy.

    Now, Hornby. Ok, it's back to retail, sort of. It's a very different sector. It smacks of the thinking that managers need not know their business, their job is to manage, and techie types below can deal with the details. This is part of the thinking which has serially run down British industry over the past 20 years. It matters mightily for thousands of employees, suppliers, and customers. It wouldn't even appear on the mental radar of KKR though. Yep, even after wrecking huge destruction on the world economy, Harvard thinking is still peddling it's stupidity. Stupidity any one of those oily rag techs will have pointed out and grumbled about over the years. Stupidity which runs directly contrary to bulding up a solidly innovative, long term business.




  • Comment number 83.

    But I thought that Labour wanted to stamp out the practice whereby MPs and those in the Lords could have second jobs? If this is the case is Alan Sugar prepared not only to give up his job with The Apprentice show but also forsake his role as the head of Amstrad?

    As for Boots the real issue is their business plan which needs to be clearly re-defined. This has been the case for about 5 years now. Adding Hornby distracts the decision making process. They are not quite at a Woolworth's stage, but it is not far off.

  • Comment number 84.

    Completely agree with post #1. This man Hornby cost me four figures in collapsed share price. I'm not sure I want to shop at Boots anymore.

  • Comment number 85.

    # 7 inoncom

    Nice reference: "and a government which aggressively takes the citizen's side in a public services revolution."

    What this could and should mean is much more democratic influence in the delivery of services. The result would be all-round beneficial. For instance if gas and electricity were converted into consumer co-operatives then the desire of the majority of the population could be put into action through electing Board members who would deliver. Consumers have a vested interest in cutting consumption (and therefore their costs;) the current ownership regime ensures over-production (and therefore environmental impact) to boost profits and therefore profits.

    Similar solutions coiud be put in place for water and rail (the latter already has very active and informed user groups who could provide the core of the new Boards).

    This would renew our democracy by abolishing the democratic deficit at the heart of our public services. Given the performance of the "Masters of the Universe" it would also improve the management of these services.



  • Comment number 86.

    Boots are doing quite well, all the doom and gloom merchants comparing it to woolies are way off the mark. They spent a lot of money re branding the old Alliance shops, also Boots opticians ( which I now think is a separate entity) bought out the rather posh Dolland & Aitchinson's. Rumour has it they are thinking of more buy outs. Hardly a business in it's final throes of life !

  • Comment number 87.

    Hornby's great talent is to get staff selling products they know are unsuitable or unnecessary for a customer. Imagine staff at Boots doing the same.

    Talk about a gift to the Medical Negligence industry.

  • Comment number 88.

    It certainly beats me how you can be a "non political" member of this government but lets hope he has more success than the hapless Digby Jones in stirring up the fortunes of UK Business-thinking about wouldn't it be great if it those two could get together and do the road shows on a Triumph Motor bike but then again "SIRRALAN" doesn't probably know Digby all that well...
    As to Hornby-good luck to him-the only thing that puzzles me there is how he can be the CEO at Boots and also a non exec at Argos at the same time-dont those two fight tooth and nail(brush) when it comes to flogging us those "small electrical devices" we all hanker for at Christmas (or maybe he will just absent himself when market shares,margins,and supplier terms get discussed?).

  • Comment number 89.

    The appointment of Andy Hornby makes sense in one respect, as the former head of one of Britains largest banks he will have an address book full of influential contacts in the financial world and probably within government. KKR will be assuming he can use those contacts to get good deals from the banks for Alliance Boots and advance warning of any policy decisions that may affect their business from his chums in Govt.

    This is exactly the reason that ex ministers are snapped up as directors for so many large companies, no matter what their track record was in office. As long as they aren't 'damaged goods' politically their access to the inner workings of Government makes them a valuable commodity. As they say, its not WHAT you know..

  • Comment number 90.

    As someone who has just been made redundant from the merger between Clerical Medical (part of HBOS) and Scottish Widows (part of Lloyds TSB) I find it absolutely repugnant that Andy Hornby has slithered into another top position.

    While myself and some of my hard working colleagues have had the indignity and humiliation of applying for our own jobs (just a corporate game)just to be told we are surplus to requirements, Hornby is rewarded for spectacular failure costing billions of pounds of taxpayers money.

    The damage caused by this debacle is not all Hornby's fault, but the wreckless lending of HBOS happened under his watch and he shares the blame. Hornby and his ilk have caused real harm to real people. I for one have lost my income, car, pension contributions and now face problems paying my mortgage. Based on the principle of harm this man should be languishing in her majesty's prison not in some oak pannelled boardroam.

    As for Boots I will never cross their threshold under this mans watch.

  • Comment number 91.

    I will not be buying from Boots whilst he is there.

  • Comment number 92.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 93.

    Interesting idea #72 starry-tigger:

    'Why doesn't Gordon Brown take Alan Sugar's place on the next series of The Apprentice for the BBC?'

    Then we might get:

    "Last prize is working for me. First prize don't exist."

  • Comment number 94.

    #67 - agreed.

    Also the Apprentice winner could not distinguish net and gross profit during her interview. A challenge of teaching his new protege for the new Enterprise Champion to deal with now that he has hired!

    Does anyone else in Government have any sort of financial credentials? Shaun Woodward only as a multi millionaire..but then he was a Tory before he switched sides.

    Yikes!

  • Comment number 95.

    84. At 2:10pm on 08 Jun 2009, Rod1883 wrote:
    Completely agree with post #1. This man Hornby cost me four figures in collapsed share price. I'm not sure I want to shop at Boots anymore.

    ------------------------------------------------------------


    If you honestly believe your share losses are down to one man then maybe you're not bright enough to invest in the stock market.

    Share prices go up and down. Past performance is no guarantee of future performance.

  • Comment number 96.

    83. At 1:57pm on 08 Jun 2009, excellentcatblogger wrote:
    But I thought that Labour wanted to stamp out the practice whereby MPs and those in the Lords could have second jobs? If this is the case is Alan Sugar prepared not only to give up his job with The Apprentice show but also forsake his role as the head of Amstrad?


    -----------------------------------------------------------

    I dont see why or how AMS could give up his dayjob as that's the very reason he is getting his peerage in the first place.

    It's a tricky subject as it lends itself to conlficts fo interest but really, business is what he does so telling him to get rid of his second job is surely like telling the Culture Secretary to never set foot in a theatre again?
    His appointment is off the back of what he does in the business world so surely it would hamper his role to remove him from circulation?

  • Comment number 97.

    Boots did not buy Donnold Aitchinson, they merged.
    You only need to look at the facts, fundamentals and balance sheets to realise that both Boots and KKR are at the mercy of their creditors, just like Woolies.
    KKR announced $1.2 billion losses recently. Both companies can hardly stomack a buy out spell now. Rumours of buy outs is good for the moral though and it is debt-free.

  • Comment number 98.

    As with many others who have commented, I will not be crossing the threshold of any Boots store as long as Andy '00 Gauge' Hornby is there. Him saying sorry is meaningless when he played a major part in bringing down HBOS. We keep reading how smart he is meant to be in the retail trade but he was a boy in a mans job at HBOS.

  • Comment number 99.

    And where do LDV feature in then , as they a buisness that is not worth commenting upon ?

  • Comment number 100.

    Whats the big deal about Alan Sugar? We once had a business selling his computers and apart from the PCW9512 word processor, which was a winner that broke the personal computer market wide open, the rest of his stuff was mainly junk and came and went swiftly from the market unlamented and unremembered. He seems more opportunist market trader and spiv than model businessman. It surely doesnt take much strength of character to play the hard man on TV to young people trying to start out.

    As for Andy Hornby, good luck to him at Boots. It is without doubt the dreariest, most boring multiple on the High Street and will surely follow Woolworth into oblivion ere long. What do their shelves hold that cannot be bought cheaper and more conveniently along with the groceries at Tesco or Sainsburys?

    bpandz

 

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