Philip Green is probably a winner, though he lost the fight. He started the battle with a reputation for being a bit too sharp, a bit too tough and a bit too vulgar. Initially he lived up to all three.
But once he calmed down he built a new respect, based partly on his astonishing achievement in raising £10bn from the banks, and even more because he was willing to put £1.5bn of his own money where his mouth was, and because he clearly knew what he was doing. He started the battle as a larger-than-life retailer best avoided. He left it a serious, credible businessman.
Stuart Rose probably went the other way. There can be no one in British business who has more assiduously cultivated his image – wining and dining the retail correspondents of the national press throughout last winter, proving to be an endless source of gossip and stories, and building up the impression that he had the golden touch.
Rose landed the job he coveted but scored a series of own goals – the share purchases, the pricing of his options below the level of Green’s bid and his use of many of the identical words, phrases and strategy ideas of the now lowly rated previous chair Luc Vandervelde from three years ago. It’s a case of Rose winning but no longer smelling as sweet.
Finally, the dog that didn’t bark. Roger Holmes, who was fired as Marks & Spencer CEO just as the battle began, was not a player thereafter. But as if to underline what really matters these days, he quietly retained the services of Nigel Whittaker’s ReputationInc – so that if he was rubbished by either side, there was someone to set the record straight.
This is probably the most interesting PR innovation to come out of the battle – but did it work? We will be better able to judge that when he lands his next job.