To hear about the takeover of Cadbury’s by Kraft Foods is making many of us Brits deeply sad. The loss of another iconic British company to a foreign one is painful. It is the inevitable consequence of untrammelled capitalism, where the greed interests of the shareholders come first. As the BBC reports, the deal is a formality due to the large majority of institutional investors. It all seems to be a crude way for Kraft to spend to get out of debt – something that’s been fashionable in government circles these last couple of years.
The BBC report to which I linked above contains this paragraph:
Business Secretary Peter Mandelson said Kraft’s chairman and chief executive Irene Rosenfeld had already written to him to assure him of Kraft’s “respect for Cadbury’s heritage and employees”.
Well, of course we’re all reassured by Peter Mandelson, aren’t we?
But maybe it’s time to mourn the fact that the Cadbury’s heritage was long ago killed off by unrestrained capitalism, even if there was a glimmer of the old Cadbury’s recently when their famous Dairy Milk bar went Fairtrade. In its origins, the business was Christian, founded by the nineteenth century Quaker John Cadbury, who opened a shop selling tea, coffee and hot chocolate as alternatives to alcohol.
It reminded me of the sermon illustration I once heard – I think it was Brian Hoare who told it – which went something like this. A major department store in Birmingham wanted to expand their premises, but to do so they needed to purchase the adjacent Quaker meeting house. They sent a letter to the trustees saying they wished to purchase their property. ‘Name your price,’ they said, ‘and we will write you a cheque.’
To their surprise they received a reply along the following lines. ‘We too have major plans for expansion and would like to purchase your store. Name your price and we will write you a cheque.’
The management of the department store rolled around laughing when they read it – until they noticed the signature at the bottom. ‘J Cadbury’.
If only he had still been around to write like that to Kraft.