Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

City Spy

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

City Spy

Article excerpt

OH DEAR. Sir Richard Branson announces he's floating Virgin Mobile and what should appear in the Press coverage of the Marks & Spencer bid battle but the bald assertion that Stuart Rose turned down Branson's offer of the chairmanship of his phone network. This isn't true. The bearded one rejected Rose.

"We went through the headhunting process and his name was on a list of strong candidates. We thought he was a perfectly good chap but we went for Charles [Gurassa] instead," says City Spy's source close to Branson. Either M&S's spin doctors decided they would chuck in Virgin alongside Saga as jobs the great man turned down in order to save the retailer, and/or Rose has been talking up his own book. You have to ask, why do they feel the need to lie so?

PHILIP GREEN'S adjutant has answered our questions of yesterday:

. No, Green didn't hire private detectives; nobody in his camp received details of Rose's phone conversations.

. He didn't know about Rose's chat with Steve Longdon, M&S's then head of womenswear, until he read about it in the Press.

. Of course, Goldman Sachs (Green's advisers) knew Rose had been offered the job of running only M&S food. They briefed that he was saying he'd be chairman because that is what he said.

. The meeting of 12 May was not set up in the phone call of 7 May. It was set up by the PAs to Green and Rose on 28 April. As to what was discussed on 7 May, Green is saving it for the Financial Service Authority.

What does this mean? Someone definitely got hold of Rose's phone calls and passed them to the Sunday Times. Green says it wasn't him or his people.

Presumably, the Sunday Times knows its source but doubtless will not tell.

The last answer is especially interesting because it's been widely supposed that when Rose and Green spoke on 7 May (immediately after which Rose bought shares in M&S), it was to set up their 12 May meeting. …

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