Predators on the High Street

They possess a sense of being maverick, feral outsiders who work and play hard.

by Matthew Gwyther, MT editor
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The original US Rat Pack was a late 1950s group of showbiz pals - Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jnr, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop - who hung out at the Sands hotel and casino in Las Vegas working and playing hard in equal measure. During the day they'd make movies like Ocean's 11 and then perform live at the Sands in the evening. Their collective title was coined by Lauren Bacall, who came across the gang slumped after a boozing session that had gone on around the clock for five days. 'You look like a rat pack,' she told them in her husky tones. Their response has not been recorded.

The UK Retail Rat Pack on our cover this month don't go in for the wild excesses of Francis Albert and his cronies, but they do possess a similar sense of being maverick, feral outsiders who play hard - they sure like to party - and work hard on the British retail scene. And they have a smidgeon of the glamour, too. Few of the established and lamer players on Britain's high streets should feel comfortable with them around. As Chris Blackhurst writes in MT this month, Philip Green and his friends 'treat the shopping mall as a lion does the Serengeti, as a fertile hunting ground for easy meat'. And woe betide the luckless wildebeest that gets separated from the panicking herd.

Say what you like about Arcadia and BHS proprietor Green - and he attracts much media coverage that is less than complimentary - he does appear, like Sinatra, to breathe the business he is in. He's a retail natural who gets involved right down at the buying level, and he has a good nose for what will sell and what won't. And he does not lack in determination.

No less determined but operating in a perhaps less straightforward world is Dr Chai Patel, CEO of the Priory Group of hospitals. The phrase 'checked him/herself into the Priory' has become a routine description for celebrities who have been living life a little too fast. (No doubt Dean Martin, who underwent a lifelong struggle with the bottle, could have benefited from Priory help.) As David Butcher explains in 'The Man from the Priory', Patel's business goes far further than the flagship Roehampton clinic.

Only half the hospital's business comes from private patients and a tiny minority from overwrought celebrities. Patel's biggest client is the NHS, for which his 16 acute hospitals around the country are standing by ready to plug the care gaps that the health service cannot fill on its own.

On the subject of things psychological, we've also conducted a close analysis of psychometric testing in MT this month. Is it a lucrative HR fad or a business tool of real value in the recruitment process? The jury is out, but wouldn't you love to see the results if Philip Green was ever sent off to have his psychometric bumps felt?

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