Bristol Scotts battle moves to round two

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The Independent Online
THE simmering struggle for control of Bristol Scotts, the greyhound racing, property and restaurants group, is set to boil over at today's annual meeting, with a second attempt within a year to oust the controlling Kerman family.

Directors Sir Ian Rankin and Ian Stevens are expected to try to block chairman Andy Kerman's re-election. If the move is successful, Sir Ian will become chairman.

Mr Kerman's brother, Nicholas, and Isidore, the family's 88-year-old patriarch, will also come under pressure to step down from the company.

The attempted coup follows a similar row at the end of last year, which resulted in the compromise appointment of Sir Ian Rankin and Ian Stevens to the board.

That move persuaded them to drop plans to call an extraordinary meeting to oust the Kermans. At the time Sir Ian said: 'We want to move the company forward, to turn it into a proper public company.'

The family has maintained a firm grip on Bristol Scotts since the widely criticised sale of the family's Scotts restaurant chain in 1990.

The merger with Scotts was based on an asset valuation of pounds 6.43m despite an independent valuation that claimed assets of just pounds 2.3m.

The restaurants division lost pounds 3.5m over the following three years, prompting the company to announce its closure in June. The red ink from the Overton's fish restaurants and Scotts contributed to a string of losses stretching back to 1989.

Other unresolved disputes at BS include the sale to Nick Berry, the property entrepreneur, of a 14 per cent stake, which Nicholas Kerman claims he has the right to buy back. Ownership of the shares could be crucial in any vote to oust the family.

The shares closed unchanged yesterday at 130p.