Just Desserts for RHM

Article excerpt

Revenge, as Today pere was wont to say, is sweet: but revenge with a majority shareholding thrown in is positively saccharine. Consider, friends, the case of Dr John Randall, ex-mastermind of one of the UK's great postwar success stories, Avana Foods. Avana used to be the City's darling, and understandably so: between 1975 and 1984, the company's earnings per share (EPS) rose at an average of more than 80% per annum. Even hardened analysts were seen to brush away tears of manly joy when group year-end results were published. But then that fate hovers eternally over Threadneedle Street decided to sport with Randall and his brainchild. Avana's EPS growth slowed down to a rate that was merely respectable, and the fickle denizens of the City began to grumble. In 1987, mutinous shareholders decided that Randall's corporate offspring should be put up for adoption: Ranls Hovis McDougall (RHM) was chosen as the new parent, the group's name was changed to Avana Bakeries and Randall went off bitterly to start a new firm, Caines Foods. But now that same fate has turned her wheel again. Five years on, RHM is itself in trouble.

In early October, the omnivorous Hanson launched a hostile takeover bid for the group, only to be outbid by FH Tomkins. …