Saturday, 13 November 2010

Boycott Whitbread and Reed Elsevier

The posts on this blog are becoming more complicated and the research for each is taking longer as the network of corporate backscratching emerges.

The subject of today's post is Anthony Habgood who manages to spread his time between being Chairman of Whitbread and Reed Elsevier, two seemingly unrelated businesses. Because of the large number of brands related to these two businesses the brands to be boycotted are shown in bold in what is fast becoming a convention on this blog.

Whitbread is a global hotel, coffee shop and restaurant company headquartered in Dunstable. Its largest division is Premier Inn, which is the largest hotel brand in the UK with around 580 hotels and over 40,000 rooms. Its Costa Coffee chain has around 1,600 stores across 25 countries and is the second largest international coffee shop chain in the world. Its other brands include the restaurants Beefeater, Brewers Fayre, Table Table and Taybarns.

Reed Elsevier is a global publisher and information provider. It is a FTSE100 and FT500 Global company. The Reed Elsevier group is a dual-listed company consisting of Reed Elsevier PLC and Reed Elsevier NV. The company came into being in Autumn 1992 as the result of a merger between Reed International, a British trade book and magazine publisher, and the Dutch science publisher Elsevier NV.

In 1880, Jacobus George Robbers started a publishing company called NV Uitgeversmaatschappij Elsevier (Elsevier Publishing Company NV) to publish literary classics and the encyclopedia Winkler Prins. Robbers named the company after the old Dutch printers family Elzevir, which, for example, published the works of Erasmus in 1587. Elsevier NV originally was based in Rotterdam but moved to Amsterdam in the late 1880s.

In 1894, Albert E. Reed established a newsprint manufacturing mill at Tovil Mill near Maidstone, Kent. In 1903, Albert E Reed was registered as a public company. In 1970, Albert E. Reed merged with the International Publishing Corporation and the company name was changed to Reed International Limited. The company originally grew by merging with other publishers and produced high quality trade journals as IPC Business Press Ltd and women's and other consumer magazines as IPC magazines Ltd. The original family owners, the Reeds, were Methodists and encouraged good working conditions for their staff in the then-dangerous print trade.

Up to the 1930s, Elsevier remained a small family-owned publisher, with no more than ten employees. After the war it launched the weekly Elseviers Weekblad, which turned out to be very profitable. A rapid expansion followed. Elsevier Press Inc. started in 1951 in Houston, Texas, and in 1962 publishing offices were opened in London and New York. Multiple mergers in the 1970s led to name changes, settling at Elsevier Scientific Publishers in 1979. In 1991, two years before the merger with Reed, Elsevier acquired Pergamon Press from Robert Maxwell (yes THAT Robert Maxwell).

Reed Elsevier conducts its business through the following divisions:

* The science and medical publishing division is Elsevier.
* The legal publishing division is LexisNexis.
* The business division is Reed Business Information.

Key products

ScienceDirect contains over 25% of the world's science, technology and medicine full text and bibliographic information.

Scopus is the world's largest abstract and citation database of research literature and quality web sources. Scopus is updated daily.

Reed Business, Reed Elsevier's global Business division, is a provider of magazines, exhibitions, directories, online media and marketing services across five continents. Its prestige brands serve professionals across a diverse range of industries. These brands include Variety, New Scientist,, Elsevier, Kellysearch, and the World Travel & Tourism Market.

Reed Elsevier has been criticised for the high prices of its journals and services, especially Elsevier and LexisNexis. Members of the scientific community have called for a boycott of Elsevier journals and a move to open access publications such as those of the Public Library of Science or BioMed Central.

Well known publications include The Lancet and Grey's Anatomy. Their Health Sciences division publishes over 700 journals and 2,000 books and clinical reference works annually and offers a portfolio of online tools in education, practitioner reference and point of care.

A full list of periodicals published by Elsevier can be found here -

Organisation of Arms Fares

Members of the medical and scientific communities, which purchase and use many journals published by Reed Elsevier, agitated for the company to cut its links to the arms trade. Two UK academics, Dr. Tom Stafford of Sheffield University and Dr Nick Gill, launched petitions calling on Reed Elsevier to stop organising arms fairs. A subsidiary, Spearhead, organised defence shows, including an event where it was reported that cluster bombs and extremely powerful riot control equipment were offered for sale.

In February 2007, Richard Smith, former editor of the British Medical Journal, published an editorial in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, arguing that Reed Elsevier's involvement in both the arms trade and medical publishing constituted a conflict of interest. He suggested that if academics began to disengage with Reed Elsevier, the company would be likely to end their arms fairs, as arms fairs only comprise a small proportion of their business.

On 1 June, 2007, Reed Elsevier announced that they would be exiting the Defence Exhibition business during the second half of 2007.

This means that the company no longer organises arms fairs around the world. The decision followed a high-profile campaign, co-ordinated by CAAT, which highlighted the incompatibility of Reed's involvement in the arms trade and their position as the number one publisher of medical and science journals and other publications. CAAT welcomed the decision and applauded the board of Reed Elsevier for recognising the concerns of its stakeholders.

They do however still organise non-arms related exhibitions including The London Book Fare.

So pressure on them can work. This is not pointless posturing.

Anthony Habgood was appointed chairman of Whitbread PLC in August 2005. He was appointed Chairman of Reed Elsevier in 2009. He was director/chief executive of Tootal Group plc from 1986-1991 having previously spent 16 years with the Boston Consulting Group Inc., 9 of them as a Director. He has also been non-executive director of Geest plc, Powergen plc and NatWest Bank plc and Marks & Spencer plc from 2004-2006. He was formerly Chairman of Bunzl plc and of Mölnlycke Healthcare Limited.

He received his BA Economics from Gonville & Caius College at Cambridge in 1968 and his MA in 1971. He received his MS in Industrial Administration from Carnegie Mellon University in 1970.

Business Week estimates Tony's pay from Reed Elsevier alone at £291,667 p.a., not bad for a part-time job.

On 18th October, Anthony Habgood signed an open letter calling on the Chancellor to continue the coalition government's plans to reduce the public finance deficit in one term, plans which included swingeing cuts on the poorest members of society and which risk pushing this country into a double-dip recession, the likes of which has not been seen since the last time the tories took power and tanked the economy in the early 80's.

For this reason Anthony Habgood is considered to be a fully signed up member of the Big Business Society and we urge people to boycott Whitbread and Reed Elsevier brands, hotels, restaurants, publications, exhibition and overpriced coffee shops.

Albert Edward Reed was a philanthropist who established good working conditions for his employees at a time when this was almost unheard of. He must be spinning in his grave at the news that the head of the business that still bears his name can call for government action designed to cause widespread poverty amongst the descendents of those same workers who lot he sought to improve.

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