There was something of a panic back in 1988 when Australian firm GFW made its hostile bid to acquire Rank Hovis McDougall. The British conglomerated company owned a wealth of power brands ranging from Bisto to Mother’s Pride to Sharwoods and was performing admirably.
But the accounting standards of the 1980s meant it was entirely feasible to acquire a company and then, by breaking it up and selling off its brands to other companies, realise a significant profit. The Aussies had caught wind of the idea and Rank Hovis McDougall was in its sights.
Fortunately, legendary brand man John Murphy was working as a consultant for Rank Hovis at the time. His naming and identity firm Interbrand had just completed work on a new digestive biscuit, which Murphy had recommended be called the Hobnob. His connection with the senior team at Rank Hovis meant he was aware of the Antipodean threat and he decided to chance his arm.
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