Dear fellow shareholders,
In 1824, John Cadbury started commercial production of chocolate and founded the Cadbury brand. Then in 1879, his son George opened the family’s factory at Bournville, on the outskirts of Birmingham, with its famous model village designed to house the workforce in rare comfort, with access to parks, gymnasia, lakes and gardens.
They even had one of the world’s first factory canteens. Thus it was that, just as Cadbury’s chocolate became renowned, so too did their ethos of philanthropic management of their hard-working staff.
It happens John Cadbury was my ancestor and that I was born a Cadbury, but practically everyone in this country was brought up on Cadbury’s and that’s the point.
We now stand on the verge of seeing this famous company, emblematic of so much that is good about Britain, sold to the giant American food company Kraft.
I oppose the Kraft bid on a number of points and the first of them is on grounds of taste.
I have no doubt that once Kraft’s corporate chefs get to work we will lose the wonderful creamy, delicious Cadbury blend for ever. While Kraft produces cheese slices reminiscent of plastic, Cadbury makes premium bars of chocolate that are sought after all over the world.
Job losses for loyal and committed workers will follow a takeover and Kraft will inevitably move production out of this country to Poland, as they did with the last British chocolate maker they gobbled up: Terry’s, sadly no longer of York.
I also oppose this bid on the grounds of national interest. There are, doubtless, many companies representing the best of British business that have been sold abroad in the past decade or so; I would suggest too many. We are now eroding our manufacturing base at a rate that is unsustainable and all this in the name of the global market.
I’m afraid the view of the global market and iconic national brands is quite different in other countries, including the United States, where they are quite fiercely protected from foreign predators. I think Cadbury should mark a line in the sand for the loss of our own manufacturing icons.
I’ve never claimed to be a financial expert but, importantly, I also contest this bid on the grounds of business prudence and best-value for shareholders. Cadbury is a successful, rapidly growing, vibrant brand while Kraft is a sluggish, unimaginative and low-growth conglomerate.
For me, shareholder value would best be achieved by continued investment in the British-held Cadbury model which envisages high growth despite difficult trading times.
Kraft represents only one thing and that’s a disruption of the successful Cadbury brand and its manufacturing base to pay for the very bid that the board has accepted.
Cadbury will become just another division in the lumbering Kraft dinosaur. Kraft needs Cadbury but Cadbury certainly doesn’t need Kraft.
The second string to my opposition is unashamedly patriotic and sentimental, at a time in our history when it is unfashionable to be either. That is why I mention the fine heritage of the Cadbury brand; bids may be made on the basis of financial imperatives but great brands are founded on genius, hard work and endeavour. My view is that Cadbury should remain in British hands.
My disappointment at the performance of the Cadbury board in all this is unqualified. At great expense to the company and the shareholders, they brought in City advisers and glitzy PR machines to ‘fight’ the Kraft attack. A stand-alone strategy was unveiled and I was heartened by its vision and positive stance. But then a small tweak in the unattractive Kraft offer saw the board capitulate and their seemingly robust defence of Cadbury was proved to be a sham.
How disappointing then, when it was revealed that Cadbury CEO Todd Stitzer stands to pocket a huge ‘bonus’ – around £20m – from the Kraft deal. He ostentatiously built a barricade around the company but then failed to fire a single shot from it. I hope he uses his cash for a flight back to America, where I trust he will stay.
Then, after the board acceptance was announced, the British public was treated to the unedifying sight of Roger Carr, the chairman of Cadbury, being interviewed on the BBC by their business correspondent Robert Peston. Could the chairman explain why Cadbury, a superior company, is being bought up by Kraft, an inferior company, asked Peston?
Trapped like a rabbit in the beam of headlamps, the chairman could barely answer and it was left to Peston to point out that the deal will leave all Britons a bit poorer in the future.
They say these takeover deals are sealed with the board’s recommendation; we are told that the die is cast – but I wonder. Do we really have to carry on with the ghastly ritual wedding dance of this takeover? It is up to the shareholders to decide whether they will vote for this deal or not and I urge all my fellow shareholders to reject this bid on the grounds of price and future value.
Do not follow the advice of a board that has accepted a bid well below that which the company is worth. Do not let Cadbury, a distinctly superior company, be taken over by Kraft, an obviously inferior one.
One of the things that frustrates me most is that in earlier attempts to take Cadbury over, their CEO robustly attacked the Kraft offer. Yet when they tweaked their offer slightly, they caved so very easily. It seems that greed took over and was just waiting for the offer to be improved for his benefit.
We need to start an interent campaign if we are to put any pressure on the shareholders of Cadbury to vote against the take-over. If someone hasn’t already, I’ll start a Facebook group to protest against the sale. But we need bloggers and Twitter users to join in the campaign too.