Bidder wins converts in Littlewoods clan

SENIOR members of the Moores family, who own the Littlewoods retail and football pools empire, have given early indications of support for the pounds 1.2bn approach from Barry Dale, the company's former chief executive.

Mr Dale, who must secure 75 per cent of the family's votes to succeed, is believed to be confident of substantial shareholder approval.

Several shareholders are understood to have been in touch with Mr Dale's team to voice their willingness to sell at his likely price of more than pounds 8 a share.

If Mr Dale's bid is to proceed, he must first obtain a majority vote at a shareholders' extraordinary general meeting in December. He and his heavyweight City backers - Prudential, Legal & General, Electra, Apex and Candover - are not prepared to make a formal offer without first examining the company's books. More than 50 per cent of the shareholders must agree to allow them to complete their due diligence.

Such are the worries about the impact of the National Lottery on Littlewoods' pools business and lacklustre high-street trading in the retail division that the Dale camp is insisting on access to the accounts before making a final move.

Although Mr Dale has his opponents among the family, principally Lady Grantchester, daughter of Sir John Moores, the firm's late founder, they are not regarded as an insurmountable obstacle. Shares that were once concentrated in the children of Sir John and Cecil, his brother, who ran the pools side, have now been dispersed down the gen-erations.

No individual family member speaks for more than 6 per cent. The largest shareholder is a charitable trust linked to Peter Moores, son of Sir John, which accounts for 12.5 per cent.

After that, the holdings fall away. The four children of the first marriage of John Moores - Sir John's eldest son - hold a combined 24 per cent, while those of his second marriage have 13 per cent.

Lady Grantchester's side of the family has 11 per cent. Janatha, Sir John's other daughter, and her relatives, account for another 9 per cent, while Cecil's heirs hold a combined 23 per cent.

Positive encouragement to Mr Dale is thought to span the generations, coming from older and younger members of the family frustrated at having their cash tied up in the group.

Leonard Van Geest, Littlewoods' chairman, acknowledged there may be shareholders who want to sell. However, he stressed that if a sale was what they desired "we could go about it in a different way". A part sale, he said, was a possibility. "If a real volume wants to sell, we will organise a proper sale - either in terms of value or in parts."

Mr Van Geest said he would regard 50 per cent of shareholders wanting out as sufficient to force the issue.

The Littlewoods chairman expressed surprise that Mr Dale had not made a straight bid but had held fire pending examination of the accounts. "It surprises me - maybe it's coming, I don't know," said Mr Van Geest.

As an ex-chief executive, Mr Dale should be perfectly capable of putting an accurate value on the company, according to Mr Van Geest,.

Mr Van Geest's robust response is part of a hardening of attitudes on both sides. The normally press-shy Littlewoods is going on the offensive, briefing City journalists and stressing changes were afoot long before Mr Dale made his approach.

Meanwhile, speculation is growing that a counter-offer may still be made - from someone more amenable to some members of the family than Mr Dale, who was dismissed earlier this year. Littlewoods casualties also include North West Water chairman, Sir Desmond Pitcher.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Swiss Banking and Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Can you speak German,...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - 6 month FTC - Central London

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity f...

Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application) - Agile

£215 per day: Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application ...

Guru Careers: Software Engineer / Software Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before