A little local difficulty

Jun 09 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

A couple of months ago, Steve Huxham mused here about the cross-cultural issues that often seem to dog Anglo-American mergers or buyouts.

But cross-cultural issues don't necessarily have to transcend national borders. The sorry saga of UK retailer Morrisons takeover of rival supermarket Safeway – which is fast become a business school case study in the making – is the clearest possible demonstration of the carnage that can be wrought by a cultural gulf between companies – something that isn't helped, in this case, by the leadership style of Sir Ken Morrison himself.

The Guardian explains the whole story:

Some of the Safeway staff were given a stark choice: move 200 miles north and work for Morrisons - or leave. Others had no choice at all - their jobs were already history. Within weeks there was serious dissent in the ranks. Emails emanating from Safeway's Hayes HQ started to circulate detailing how the menu in the canteen had suddenly started to reflect supposedly more northern tastes, with endless pies and vats of chips. A fake job application form for Safeway staff considering the move to Bradford appeared. Would-be applicants were invited to state their place of birth as either a) Bradford, b) Yorkshire or c) somewhere down south. There were two pages of such queries. It may have been designed to amuse, but it signalled a yawning gulf between the cultures of the two very different companies, from two very different parts of Britain. Sir Ken's northern conquest has since turned into corporate carnage

The Guardian | Gone south