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The amusing line in the unfunny saga of a tobacco giant trying to buy a company that develops inhalers to treat lung diseases came last Friday when the board of Vectura, the target, switched its allegiance from Philip Morris to the rival bidder, the private equity firm Carlyle. The directors said it wasn’t only Carlyle’s higher offer they liked. They also noted “the reported uncertainties” for Vectura’s stakeholders if the Marlboro men were to win.

Those reports – everything from fury on the part of medical groups to threats to Vectura employees’ membership of scientific bodies – were entirely predictable. But, it seems, the board had failed until that point to spot the problem in a healthcare company accepting Big Tobacco’s dollar. Up until then the directors were prepared to swallow Philip Morris’s pitch that it wants to be a “wellness” company and will quit the fags one day, honest.

Vectura’s recommendation is…

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