The FT has seen private letters between designer George Davies and Stuart Rose, M&S chief executive.
From George Davies to Stuart Rose
Last year you paid me £125m for Per Una, the range that kept your company afloat. It is now time for you to pay me again and this time I won’t be fobbed off with chicken feed.
Oh, I was the apple of your eye when Philip Green was breathing down your neck. But when I ask for a small favour, like a nine figure sum, you show me no respect.
You people don’t seem to recognise that I am a genius. My record speaks for itself. I got people wearing double-breasted suits again – do you think that was easy? My Asda range was so good people actually started going there for food.
Before me, you were selling floral print dresses that would not have looked out of place on the walls of an Indian restaurant in Crewe. Now professional women are actually returning to your stores. Oh, you think you are so smart with your Twiggy ads and hokum chicken. If it weren’t for me you’d all be selling pickled onion crisps and plastic shoes off a stall outside Primark by now.
I want another £100m up front; the Per Una range extended into children’s clothes, chicken wraps and low calorie meals; and no more jokes about me being innocent.
Failure to meet these terms will leave me with no choice but to resign and take key staff with me.
Stuart Rose to George Davies
Dear Sir or Madam,
Thank you for your letter. There is no doubt about your talent but when the price of genius hits a certain level, I’ll settle for mediocrity.
Still, we would hate to lose you. So I’ve asked our finance director to see whether we might be able to up your staff discount a bit.
George Davies to Stuart Rose
I warned you. I may have been Per Una, but now I’m Per Ambulating.
That you felt my demands were unreasonable is no excuse for not meeting them. If you wanted reasonable you should have stuck with twinsets.
As to your comment that Per Una is worth a mere £350m a year in sales – that’s one-fifth of women’s wear. But since I’m such a small cog, you’ll have no problem coping without me.
I haven’t decided what comes next. It looks like Philip Green could use my help. Then again, my dear friend David Jones (we were inseparable at Next, you know) may want me to develop a clothing range for Morrisons. Black and yellow check is this year’s in pattern. Forget Burberry. Think Dewsbury.
Naturally, I wanted to release this information at a convenient time and, as you were already spending the day talking to analysts and the media, this seemed a good moment.
I was worried that this might overshadow your exciting news about the underlying quarterly rise in sales. But your point about the piffling £350m in sales reassured me no one would think my loss that important.
Sir Gus O’ Donnell, the cabinet secretary, is morally right to try to stop former ministerial aides publishing diaries. But has he really thought it through?
A clampdown like this could have a devastating effect on recruitment. The prospect of a book and lucrative newspaper serialisation is a key attraction these days. Many ex-aides rely on a dirt-dishing, score-settling, confidence-betraying diary to save them from a life of lobbying.
Worse still, if we do not allow these people to write memoirs we may have to pay them more, which, in most cases, is a pretty unpalatable thought.
A senior Iraq war veteran says the army is being ruined by “civilian generals” who have never seen action but can fight Whitehall battles . . .
At a dinner in the country retired officers are reliving their past glories.
“Now as I recall (arranges the salt cellars) the undersecretaries were gathered here, on this ridge.”
“No, that was the special advisers.”
“By Jove, I think you’re right. The undersecretaries were on the third floor along with a battalion of support staff. Now I ranged my officials here, along the corridor leading to the secretary of state’s office, cutting off his supply line to the chief of the defence staff.”
“Was that when they deployed information from the Defence Intelligence Staff?”
“Yes. I thought we were done for. But I kept my head. I retreated to the outer office and recommended a strategic review, headed by a man I could trust. I held his report back till the monthly meeting, launched a surprise attack under any other business and carried the day.”
“Was that when you won the VC?”
“No, my CMG and a larger office.”firstname.lastname@example.org