Rose wine provides some consolation

The potential sale of wine merchant Armit could provide a rare bit of good news for Sir Stuart Rose...

Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

It’s not been a great year for M&S boss Sir Stuart Rose, whose company has been under the cosh from analysts, shareholders and more recently the trade unions – who are now accusing him of some kind of Big Brother-esque surveillance exercise. So he will probably have been delighted to hear that fine wine merchant Armit has apparently agreed a £14m sale to a Dutch rival – as a minority shareholder, this tasty deal could leave Rose in the pink…

According to the Sunday Times, Armit has agreed to sell a 75% stake to Dutch company Baarsma Wine Group as it looks to expand overseas, in a deal that values the company at about £14m. The current management team, including chairman John Armit amd CEO Ian Ronald, is staying put and will hang on to the other 25%, but it sounds like the rest of Armit’s shareholders (including Rose and ICAP boss Michael Spencer, who’s also due some good news after having his personal life splashed all over the newspapers lately) are set to enjoy a windfall.

Since Armit supplies fine wine to high-end restaurants and hotels, we imagine Rose and co should be able to get hold of a nice tipple to celebrate. Then again, he’s got enough headaches at the moment: the ex-employee sacked for leaking details about the new M&S redundancy package is now accusing his erstwhile employer of spying on him. Tony Goode (who ironically used to be a customer loyalty manager at the retailer), suggested in a press conference at the TUC gathering in Brighton that M&S staff were listening in to his personal mobile phone conversations and watching staff on CCTV.

As you’d expect, M&S has dismissed the claims out of hand, suggesting Goode is just a disgruntled ex-employee; the retailer argued that it doesn’t have the technology to listen into mobile phone calls – they’re not GCHQ, after all – and that it was perfectly normal to have CCTV cameras at head office.

Perhaps Goode has been watching too many episodes of Spooks – but it’s still pretty much unheard of for M&S to be battling with unions like this. It may still be more employee-friendly than most of its rivals, but its employer brand has definitely taken a battering in recent weeks.

So the Armit windfall is just the tonic Rose needs. No doubt even as we speak he’s relaxing in front of a bank of CCTV screens, toasting the company’s success with a nice Rioja. (Or perhaps not).

In today's bulletin:
Britain bounces after US mortgage bail-out
Primark bounces back with further growth
EDF powers back into British Energy deal
Falling management pay bucks union claims
Rose wine provides some consolation

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