Publication: The London Times
Smiles through the glass
The visit to London yesterday of Count Arnaud de Vogüé, uncrowned king of the French glass industry, must be almost a record. He arrived at 5 p.m., inscribed his signature on an agreement with Pilkington at 5.45, was photographed by the press, dined soon after 6 and was well on his way back to Paris by 8. Even the Count's public relations man, who had flown into London a few hours before, was a bit flabbergasted.
"We give great importance to the British press", he answered apologetically to our request for an interview with the Count.
Students of the glass industry may be able to read something into the Count's flying visit. The official reason for his appearance in London, of course, was the signing of "an important technological and marketing" agreement between Saint Gobain, of which the Count is president, and Pilkington and Sediver, a French company which Saint Gobain owns jointly with the Compagnie Generale d'Electricité, the French electrical giant.
Important it may be, but an unlikely occasion for the Count and Lord Pilkington, recognized leaders of the world glass industry, to appear publicly together in the full glare of press publicity.
There could be other reasons.
Saint Gobain has only just emerged as the victor in probably France's most bitter takeover situation. And Pilkington in all this was firmly identified with the unsuccessful bidder for Saint Gobain, the comparatively smaller Boussois-Souchon-Neuvesel, in which Pinkington holds rather less than a 4 per cent stake.
Admittedly during the course of the bitter exchanges between the two French glass giants, Pilkington never made its views publicly known. And the story goes that Lord Pilkington, summoned hastily just after Christmas to a B.S.N. board meeting by the French company's Weinstockian chairman, Antoine Riboud, without prior knowledge, jokingly suggested that the reason must be an imminent bid for Saint Gobain.
The irony of yesterday's situation goes even further. About a year or so ago, the French electrical company bought out B.S.N.'s share of Sediver, the glass insulator company at the centre of yesterday's deal.
Anyhow, all seemed forgotten behind the smiles of the Count and Lord Pilkington yesterday.