Collapse of the British Tea Table Company
The struggle between John Pearce and the Hurst faction must be understood as part of a broader trend in which the chairmen and Board of Directors of some major catering companies sought to exert authority over the managing director through various tactics—dismissal, demotion to general manager without a seat on the Board or even eliminating the position altogether.
John Pearce and J.P. Hurst as managing director and chairman respectively became engaged in a power struggle in which the winner would secure unfettered control running the British Tea Table Co. They came from different parts of the social spectrum, pitting the resourceful, talented “player” against the acknowledged “gentlemen.” Roots of their antagonism are examined and significance explained, with introduction of alcohol stressed as a vital factor.
Plummeting profits and dividends prompted the Board of Directors to turn on Pearce as a scapegoat and blame him for the firm’s woes, but other leading catering companies in the City confronted similar problems. What distinguished the BTT from its competitors was that the Hurst faction manipulated its managing director, John Pearce, into resigning, and seized control from him to direct the policies and priorities of the Board of Directors. Disaster ensued—the Hurst faction proved incapable of devising a successful recovery plan for restoring the company to profitability and declaring acceptable dividends. The BTT’s faltering performance led to its plunging stock values and ultimately bankruptcy.