After-hours coup ousts Kerman

THE KERMAN family's grip on Bristol Scotts came to a dramatic end yesterday when Anthony Kerman was sacked as chairman within an hour of his re-election at the annual meeting.

Sir Ian Rankin, a non-executive director, was voted into the chair by the four non- family directors at a board meeting held immediately after the AGM.

Anthony Kerman, his brother Nicholas, and Isidore, their father and grand old man of British greyhound racing, remain on the board for the time being.

The bizarre events at the former home of Bristol Rovers football club followed an acrimonious meeting during which the Kerman family was taken to task for its perceived mismanagement of the embattled property and leisure company.

Sir Ian joined the rest of the board in a show of unity at the meeting. But divisions that had split the directors surfaced as he warned that the company, which he described as private to all intents and purposes, had to change.

Disgruntled shareholders, led by Colin Forsyth, questioned Anthony Kerman about the heavy losses sustained by the company over the past four years. Mr Forsyth said that since the company acquired Scotts, a quoted restaurant chain controlled by the Kerman family, net assets per share had halved. He said the company's problems, which had left it with high borrowings and a collapsing share price, had been self-inflicted.

Losses from the restaurants division amounted to pounds 3.5m over three years. The division was closed earlier this year, with Scotts sold to recently quoted restaurateur Chez Gerard in June.

The service contracts of Nicholas Kerman, deputy chairman, and Clarke Osborne, managing director, were also criticised. Both run for four years and 10 months, in contravention of the Cadbury guidelines, which recommend no more than three years.

One dispute remains unresolved. A court hearing in November will decide whether Nicholas Kerman has an option, as he claims, to buy back an 11 per cent stake in the company which he sold, via a Swiss middleman, to Nicholas Berry, the property entrepreneur.

The shares closed 10p higher at 140p.

(Photograph omitted)

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