Sir Philip Green came much closer than originally thought to acquiring Marks & Spencer in 2004, a new book has claimed.
Green initially attempted to buy M&S in 1999, but his bid failed after it emerged his wife Tina had acquired shares in the business before news of the takeover was made public.
The tycoon returned with a second takeover bid in 2004, which came within hours of success.
According to Damaged Goods, by The Sunday Times journalist Oliver Shah, Green “had no idea how close he came to winning”.
The book reveals that Andrew Grant, the boss of M&S’s PR firm Tulchan, arrived halfway through a crunch board meeting “to find two different press releases waiting – one of them announcing M&S’s surrender”.
It suggests that Charles Wilson, the right-hand man of then-M&S boss Stuart Rose, was among the board members who thought it was “impossible to keep holding out” at 400p per share – the offer Green had made for the business.
The book claims that Grant then received a call from Kate Rankine, The Daily Telegraph’s deputy City editor. Rose instructed Grant to insist there was no change in the board’s stance, despite the fact they continued to debate its position.
Rankine relayed the news to Green, who withdrew his offer at 8.30pm that day.
At the time of the attempted takeover of M&S, Green’s reputation was sky-high having acquired the loss-making BHS in 2000 and transformed its fortunes.
Green owned the department store business for 15 years, before selling it for a nominal £1 to Retail Acquisitions, led by Dominic Chappell.
BHS collapsed a year later, with the loss of 11,000 jobs and a pension deficit of £571m.
Green later paid £363m into the scheme following calls for him to be stripped of his knighthood.