Always going to be a tight call and now, all over bar perhaps a final round of political shouting, here are just a few quick pathetic words on the passing of GKN’s independence after Melrose secured a final if very small victory.
How I would have just loved to have been a fly on the wall at the odd board meeting over recent years when I imagine that the issue and recommendation of breaking up GKN into two separate units came up for discussion!
Suffice to say that those no longer on the Board of GKN and on whose watch had refused to either countenance the issue of break-up, listening to their Board elders let alone to some of the larger stakeholders, carry the larger part of the blame for GKN having now lost its independence.
Those are, of course, the very same people who also bear the burden of responsibility for having allowed other issues and problems to surface under their watch and that would provide further ammunition to those who might relish to opportunity to challenge with a hostile bid that from an opportunistic point of view, greatly undervalued the sum of the GKN parts. So it was that because of the failing of some of those charged with responsibility for running the company through 2016/2017 that GKN has been forced to face up to and lose its independence to a company that merely plies its trade on the breaking up of others.
I had no wish to see GKN forced down that route but neither am I stupid enough to ignore that particularly because of events that unfolded last year and management failings that only came to light last year together with the inability of those same people to listen to sound advice from those around them, that GKN has been placed in the situation it is now in – a situation that despite meaningless promises from the successful bidder about long term ownership, future investment and the like, will lead to huge job losses and ultimately within the next ten years, the complete demise of GKN as we know it.
GKN Chairman, Mike Turner, new CEO Anne Stevens, Group Finance Director, Jos Sclater and also Phil Swash, who is CEO of GKN Automotive should be thanked for the hard work they have put in designing and building a new forward strategy, one that had they been given the chance to deliver, would in my view have given GKN shareholders far more than they should anticipate receiving from Melrose.
Will there be further political fall-out from the Melrose win? You bet there will but unless it backed up by real political and laws in place then I fear such fall-out will quickly be deemed meaningless.
To be sure, there is strong case to put forward in respect that any buyer of stock of a company under a bid attack should not be allowed to take part in any vote. Had that rule been in place today GKN would in my view have easily survived. As it is, we are going to have to live with the reality that it is the spivs and others that have decided GKN’s fate rather than a majority of those that deserve to be called shareholders.
Final thought, I wonder what surviving former GKN CEO’s that I had the pleasure of knowing such as Sir David Lees, CK Chow, Sir Kevin Smith think about what has happened to GKN? Again, I would love to be that fly on the wall as they discuss how a great company has been allowed to find itself in the situation it has!
CHW (London – 29th March 2018)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
M: +44 7710 779785