Co-operativism meets City ethics: The 1997 Lanica take-over bid for CWS

image of Co-operativism meets City ethics: The 1997 Lanica take-over bid for CWS

One of the most traumatic events in recent British co-operative history was the attempted take-over in 1997 of the Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS) by Lanica Trust Ltd. Coming at a time when CWS was struggling with substantial challenges, this represented a full-scale assault on its independence, just when some of the equally old mutual building societies were being converted into public limited companies by a wave of ‘carpetbaggers’. Described by the Sunday Times as ‘one of the boldest takeover attempts the City has ever seen’, the two factions could not have been more different: the predator was a thirty-one-year-old entrepreneur, Andrew Regan, backed by ‘blue-chip’ City names such as Hambros, Schroder and Nomura; while in contrast the 134–year-old CWS was showing weaknesses that critics claimed were fatal. Much to the surprise of these critics, however, under the imaginative leadership of its chief executive, Graham Melmoth, CWS not only saw off Regan and his backers, but emerged from the experience in much better shape to tackle its challenges. While others have written about this episode, and contemporary newspapers offered copious commentary, providing useful insights into the people and issues involved, it is fascinating to assess the longer-term implications of an event that prompted decisive changes across CWS and associated organisations.

Related Subject(s): Economic and Social Development
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