Sainsbury's - the dust settles

Can we have our shop back now please? This may have been the response of better-informed Sainsbury's customers as they filled their trolleys this weekend. It was also, more or less, the sentiment expressed by their Lordships John and David Sainsbury as "the family" combined to see off (for the time being) private equity bidders last week.  

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Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
I wonder if Hollywood would be interested in making a Richard Curtis-style farce based around some marauding Yankees coming unstuck against blue-blooded Brits? You can see it now: the unflinching faces of 21st century capitalism losing out to gentlemanly English understatement - a bit like that bit in Love, Actually when Hugh Grant tells Mr President where to get off.
 
For people who are apparently so smart, some of these private equity guys really do have a lot to learn. They need to do more homework. They need to think a bit harder about their targets' place in the world.
 
OK, I get it - it's called PRIVATE equity - the clue is in the name. We should not expect full disclosure from these people. And yes, there are private equity success stories, and not just as far as their management fees are concerned. There can be a good case for delisting and performing major surgery on a company before restoring the patient to (public) health.
 
But private equity's big, humiliating reverse over Sainsbury's should give everyone in the sector pause. You may want to do a deal in private, but you will still have to make and win a case in public. Gentlemen, lift your skirts. It is time for private equity's stars to step into the spotlight and tell us a good story.
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