When Tony met Bobby



Sparks L (2008) When Tony met Bobby. Environment and Planning A, 40 (12), pp. 2793-2799.;

In June 1999, Wal-Mart intervened spectacularly in an agreed merger between Asda and Kingfisher by paying £6.7bn to takeover Asda outright. Reactions ranged dramatically; this was the death-knell of British retailing or the redemption of British consumers. Whatever the view, Wal-Mart buying a major retailer such as Asda, and in such a significant European market, was a landmark in the globalisation of retailing. One issue around this takeover attracted considerable speculation at the time and has been the focus of discussion specifically and generally. Some months previous to the takeover, a meeting apparently took place in Downing Street between the Prime Minister and Wal-Mart. The very fact this meeting occurred, and at that time, is intriguing. Secrecy surrounding the meeting increased speculation over the contents of any discussion. It was raised in Parliament and during investigations on retailing by the Select Committee on the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs. Over time however the meeting has faded from public attention and consideration. Yet, it still remains potentially significant. The introduction from January 2005 of the Freedom of Information Act potentially opened a window on this previously ‘secret’ meeting. This commentary concerns the meeting itself and the use of the Freedom of Information Act to obtain information about it. It raises questions about lobbying, secrecy and retail change.

Retailing; Wal-Mart; Tony Blair; Freedom of Information; Meeting; Politics; Lobbying; Business logistics; Delivery of goods Management; Industrial management; Marketing

Environment and Planning A: Volume 40, Issue 12

Publication date31/12/2008
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Professor Leigh Sparks
Professor Leigh Sparks

Deputy Principal, Marketing & Retail