The Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries (W&DB) had been trying to
negotiate a friendly merger with fellow Midlands brewer Marstons,
Thompson and Evershed for a number of years.
Then, on 16 November 1998, Marstons announced it did not want to merge
after all, but was instead going to dispose of its tenanted pub estate
and expand its high street Pitcher and Piano chain.
This strategy was very different from W&DB’s vision of creating a
larger, more competitive regional brewer. So, on 26 November, it
launched a takeover bid for Marstons.
To ensure financial media and analyst support for W&DB’s strategy for
the combined business and recommended acceptance of its offer.
Hudson Sandler put together a press release setting out W&DB’s core
messages and followed this up with presentations to key analysts and
The agency felt that face-to-face contact would be the most effective
way of influencing opinion.
A lot of emphasis was placed on the successful track record of W&DB’s
management. Early on in the campaign, Hudson Sandler persuaded the
Sunday Times to run a profile piece on managing director David
On 8 January, the campaign took a new twist when Marstons deployed the
so-called ’Pacman’ defence. It launched a hostile offer for W&DB in
which it proposed closing the latter’s two breweries and selling the
combined tenanted estate.
The battle was definitely on as the two rivals and their PR firms -
Marstons had Brunswick on its side - vied to win the hearts and minds of
On the one hand, Marstons was proposing a radical new direction that
would involve downsizing and a high degree of risk. Against that, W&DB
was prepared to play on its traditional values and talked about creating
a stronger and more competitive brewer in its core markets in the
Midlands and the North.
As well as winning endorsement for W&DB’s strategy, a key part of Hudson
Sandler’s work was to attack Marstons. This meant responding quickly to
any proposals or claims by Marstons in time to make the papers the same
day. The firm spoke to important commentators in the media on an almost
daily basis to make sure W&DB’s messages were consistently reflected
throughout their coverage.
Hudson Sandler was very successful in drumming up support for its client
from media and analysts.
All nationals - including the Times, Sunday Times, Daily Mail and
Independent - that made a recommendation advised their readers to accept
the W&DB bid.
Virtually all leading analysts also showed support for the company’s
approach and advised shareholders to accept its offer.
On 4 February, W&DB announced that 73.45 per cent of Marstons’
shareholders had accepted its offer.
Sheer hard work eventually paid off for Hudson Sandler with a very high
percentage of Marstons’ shareholders accepting W&DB’s bid.
By sticking to a consistent message about the company’s track record,
then arguing the case for the creation of a bigger brewer, and
constantly keeping in touch with leading commentators, it was able to
win the support of the media and analysts.
Client: The Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries plc
PR Team: Hudson Sandler
Campaign: W&DB’s hostile bid for rival brewer Marstons, Thompson and
Timescale: November 1998-February 1999