Jim Slater, who has just died at the age of 86, was a tycoon of the 1970s, probably unknown to most reader of this blog. But his legacy lives on and many will question whether the actions of the banking sector and big business today is a reflection of the lessons that were not learnt 40 years ago.
Slater was a businessman: perhaps the businessman in the 1970s, building up a company that in today’s money and the height of its success, would have been worth billions. Buying and selling companies, asset stripping and investing created Slater Walker, which shot to success and then crumbled to failure, taking with it a bailout from the Bank of England of £110 million. You might look at that figure and compare it with the bail outs of more recent times and think – peanuts. But think about how prices have changed and convert £110 million into today’s money and that’s a hefty bail out. A key question is whether the willingness of the government and Bank of England to bail out key banks and financial sector businesses has encouraged the irresponsible lending that led to the credit crunch. Was there a moral hazard? Had Slater Walker been left to fail, would the world look a slightly different place?
Perhaps a little extreme, but I wonder, if we were to look back over the past 50 to 60 years, whether we would find other cases of key businesses being bailed out, which set a precedent for other companies to grow, without necessarily taking full responsibility for it. Jim Slater will certainly leave a legacy behind him .
Jim Slater and the warning from the 1970s that we ignored BBC News, Jonty Bloom (20/11/15)
- What is meant by asset stripping?
- If a company like Slater Walker had not been bailed out, do you think the economy would have suffered?
- If Slater Walker had been left to fail, would that have changed the business model of some of our largest banks and reduced the chance of a financial crisis 40 years later?
- Do you think the concept of moral hazard is relevant here?
As the Times Online article below states, “Barely a year ago, The Co-operative Group was selling itself as an antidote to big business, an ethical alternative to the ruthlessness of mammon, but now it has decided to take on the Big Four supermarkets at their own game.”
So just what is the business strategy of the Co-op? Is ethical business consistent with profit maximisation? Does the takeover of Somerfield make the new Co-op a very different type of supermarket from that of a few months ago? The following articles look at the Co-op’s business strategy.
Co-op hits back with its own triple whammy Times Online, Marcus Leroux (30/11/09)
Christmas battle has started but the real test will be 2010 Telegraph, James Hall (5/12/09)
Co-op supermarket chain enjoys Somerfield boost BBC News, Will Smale (11/12/09)
See also the Co-operative group site:
- What do you understand by ‘ethical business’? Would you describe the Co-op as an ethical business?
- What type of merger is the one between the Co-op and Somerfield?
- What economies of scale are likely be realised by Co-op’s takeover of Somerfield?
- What type of growth strategy is the Co-operative group pursuing?
- Is being ethical likely to slow or accelerate the expansion of the Co-op?
In times of recession, some companies can do well, even in industries where there are supply problems. One such example is Pacific Andes, a Hong Kong based frozen seafood firm. Many fishing companies have found times tough in an era of dwindling fish stocks and fishing quotas imposed by governments anxious to preserve stocks. The following article looks at Pacific Andes and how it has managed to prosper despite supply challenges and the global recession.
Casting a wide net The Standard (Hong Kong) (24/8/09)
Details of overfishing in the UK can be found at: EyeOverFishing
The site provides a “map of the UK fisheries system, the problems with it, and solutions that are possible today”.
- To what extent can the concept of income elasticity of demand be used to help explain why Pacific Andes has managed to prosper during the recession?
- What specific business strategies has Pacific Andes adopted and why?
- Why, if overfishing is to the detriment of the fishing indsutry, do fishing fleets still overfish many parts of the oceans? Explain why this is an example of the ‘tragedy of the commons’.
- What would you understand by an ‘optimum level of fishing’ for a particular type of fish in a particular part of the oceans? Explore whether the concept of a ‘social optimum’ in this context is the same as an ‘environmental optimum’?