Saturday, May 14, 2005

Schadenfreude United




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Corporate raiders used to be flavour of the month. Asset strippers Slater Walker’s Peter, now Lord, Walker got top role model jobs in repeated Thatcher governments. Cash’n’asset hungry Lord Hanson was her last word in capitalist efficiency, her very hero. And the lady’s chancellor, Nigel, now Lord, Lawson invented the plc – that’s the public limited company – to show us all the true way to live and to facilitate precisely the efficiency that made Walker and Hanson (and Lawson and Thatcher too incidentally) into squillionaires. Beloved of the little investor and lionised by the tabloids, these fat cats ate their way through the under-performing remnants of yesterday’s capitalism until they were the only game in town and everyone could cash in and join the big time with them. The message was clear: make every poundsworth of assets sweat at least a pound or risk losing it. Happiness was unconfined. The only way was up. Until, that is, a reclusive American investor buys Manchester United Football Club plc’s assets with Bonfire of the Vanities’ junk debt and the entire POSIWID of market capitalism is suddenly brought into question.

‘There’s only one United’ the Manchester fans would sing when the opposition had a united in its name – Newcastle, West ham, Leeds, all got the treatment, even unpretentious Colchester too, I recall. As a Sheffield United fan I find it quite refreshing that, when it comes to asset stripping, there IS only one United.

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