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Happy Sunday - 22 November

Posted on Nov 22, 2020. by NTI

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Bored with Zoom quizzes? Sick of pretending you are notionally observing the Government's social restriction rules? Here’s one to try on this overcast Sunday in November. Who would you rather be? You have to choose an option, and justify why. An example; Spider-Man or Superman? Another; a billionaire who doesn’t yet know they will suffer from motor neurone’s disease in 15 years, or a person on an average wage who will survive 10 years longer?

How about this one? Philip Day, transparently edging his way towards ownership of part of his Edinburgh Woollen Mills empire cleared of debt. Or Mike Ashley, whose Frasers Group said this weekend that its attempts to discuss acquiring the more commercial brands within the group had been rebuffed. “We have followed up our interest daily via email and calls asking for updates and information [but] have been met with delays and absolute refusals,” Frasers said.

It is reported in the FT this weekend that Ashley has appointed lawyers (who you just know must be a sharp and sharky bunch) to remind FRP Adivisory of their duty of fairness and openness in any sales process under an Administration. The NTI newsroom can report that we have worked with many very fine FRP folk and they appear to be extremely aware of their duties in this regard. What is more likely, is that Ashley is reminiscent of that fat 14 year kid whose parents storm into the headmaster’s office demanding he be allowed onto the school’s cross country team, the principal knowing their son can barely waddle to the school’s tuck shop at break.

A person close to Mr Day (reported to be Mrs Day, clad top-to-toe in Jaeger, apparently on her way to an over-80s coffee morning) confirmed that senior executives at EWM brands had participated in calls with bidders, adding that they were “key people that any bidder would want to talk to”.

Philip Day has indicated to close associates that he will not be making bids for any of the brands in EWM’s sad little portfolio, as he has found the whole process shattering. Imagine lying to your close associates like that? What kind of monster is Mr Philip?

Returning to our ‘who would you rather be?’ game, which is it out of ... the directors of one in seven companies who are reported this morning (Sunday 22 November) to fear their businesses are at risk of collapse in the next three months, according to a survey by the Office for National Statistics, or the Insolvency Practitioners who have to clear up the mess left in their wake, with few if any assets to pay for the clean up?

The survey by the ONS (who have not been exactly covered themselves in glory over the past nine months or so) found that 14 percent of British businesses said they have "low or no confidence" that they will survive the next 12 weeks. Let’s see, that takes us through to February when, it now seems very likely, at least 55 percent of the population will be out on the streets again, freshly vaccinated and blinking in the light, ready to spend unearned cash and sit in seats of the remaining casual dining outlets.

Here’s an easier one; who would you rather be? More than 2,000 staff who lost their jobs when Flybe hit the ground in March of this year, suffering further upon learning that there was also a £96.5 million hit to their pension scheme. Or, a new company inexplicably called ‘Thyme Opco’, which has bought Flybe’s brand and many of its assets out of Administration, planning to aim for the skies again in the new year in what used to be the UK’s third biggest airline.

We in the NTI newsroom would certainly rather be neither of Lucien Farrell and Jonathan Peachey, big players within the new company named after an opticians and a herb, but who have chequered histories in the kind of tax avoidance schemes that made Jimmy Carr appear even sleazier than his'your Mum' gags on his stand-up routine. Nonetheless, they have expressed excitement about leading Flybe to more management chaos and hopeless leadership, despite the fact that many of the airline’s plum routes have been sold on by its Administrators.

An easier one to end on. Who would you rather be? Rishi Sunak who must be even more exhausted than Philip Day, running around with his money wand touching apparently endless parts of Britain, adding billions to their bank accounts, only to be told that there are now twice the number who need more urgent cash. Or Matt Hancock, who has his chance of redemption with four vaccines falling into his lap and an almost spotless record of not being able to organise blow jobs in brothels.  

Rishi, who will surely soon be forced to choose between the role of Prime Minister or the new James Bond, is spending his Sunday dusting off the spending review he will deliver in the coming week, spreading his beneficence far and wide to mental health, northern power houses, hospitals, the homeless who are apparently being trained to inoculate us all and any number of other doubtless very worthy causes, is seeing his star still high in the sky.

Matt has a chance to be seen to ‘save the nation’ before he is ushered back to the safe confines of the back benches.

Happy Sunday.

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