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Welcome to the FT Business school newsletter, a weekly serving of management wisdom, reading recommendations and business-related challenges. FT subscribers can sign up here to receive the newsletter by email every Monday. If you have any feedback about FT Business school, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andrew Hill's challenge
The FT's management editor sets a weekly test of your business, strategy and management skills.
L’Oréal of France is considering selling The Body Shop, the ubiquitous retail chain it bought 11 years ago. I'm surprised the retailer co-existed with the cosmetics giant for so long. Founded by the late Anita Roddick and her husband Gordon, The Body Shop's ethical, hippyish culture never impressed institutional investors when it was an independent listed company, though Dame Anita claimed in 2006 that the French company's purchase was all about "respect for our values".
Body Shop sales have flagged lately — though L’Oréal still expects to raise €1bn from the sale, so this week's challenge is to devise a three-sentence strategy statement for restoring the original excitement to the brand and making more money, without sacrificing its values. Does it need to head upmarket, start stocking other brands, reduce the number of outlets, or expand? Alternatively, come up with a new tagline Send your ideas to email@example.com.
For further reading, I highly recommend my colleague Hannah Kuchler's piece about the lack of old-fashioned trust implicit in new apps such as Venmo, which aims to make it easier for users to settle debts with each other. Is this an "unmet need" or a way of changing normal behaviour for the worse? As her headline tersely puts it: "Real friends don't split small bills".
Every week a business school professor or academic recommends useful FT articles.
Meziane Lasfer, professor of finance, at Cass Business School in the UK, selects:
Arconic’s board resists activist calls to ditch chief Kleinfeld I used this article in my class to show an example of agency conflicts. This company had underperformed the S&P 500 index by 151 per cent, yet activist fund Elliott Management's call to change the chief executive is resisted despite owning 10.6% of the company.
In normal circumstances, chief executives should be removed or replaced easily, when they do create shareholder value. But the story illustrates that by doing so is difficult and that chief executives are likely to have their own way as shareholder power is reduced and the board sides with management.
Foreign takeovers of UK companies fall after Brexit vote This article allowed me to show my students that takeovers could occur if the target is underperforming in the stock market.
Basically, Brexit had led to a fall in the pound. Normally, it is cheaper now for foreign bidders to take over British companies. The question is, why this is not happening? There are two possibilities. One is that bidders are expecting a further fall in the pound and/or there are lots of risks. The second is that maybe companies are not being taken over because their stock prices are low.
Ask the academics
Got a question for leading business school experts? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will publish the best replies in future newsletters.
Jonathan Moules' business school news
Managers can find themselves dealing with one crisis after another. But there is nothing like putting your management skills to the test when thrown into a hostage situation.
Our business education correspondent Jonathan Moules observes how participants on a leadership course deal with a staged kidnapping incident. The exercise is part of a course run by London Business School, designed for senior executives in management roles.
For those who are thinking about studying for an MBA, application deadlines are looming for some schools. Find out what admissions directors, from around the globe, are looking for in applicants? It turns out, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to what schools want.
Test your knowledge
How good is your grasp of the news? Test your reading of last week's top stories with the FirstFT quiz.
Compiled by Wai Kwen Chan