Chief strikes deal to buy Wakebourne

The chief executive of Wakebourne, the computer services group which announced its collapse on Tuesday, is understood to have struck a deal to buy the company off the administrative receivers.

The move, for an undisclosed sum, comes just two weeks after Frank Emerson was believed to have offered to take Wakebourne private for 1p a share. The shares were suspended on 12 May after Wakebourne revealed it was in advanced discussions which could lead to an offer at "substantially below" the share price of 10.5p, valuing the group at that stage at pounds 2.4m.

It was unclear why Mr Emerson, who has been with Wakebourne since the outset in 1984, decided not to proceed with the previous offer. Sources close to the company said yesterday Bank of Scotland had by then started to bounce its cheques.

Wakebourne had debts of almost pounds 10m when it called in the receivers, of which about pounds 5m was owed to creditor companies who are now unlikely to receive any cash. The Bank of Scotland was owed about pounds 4.2m at the time of the collapse.

Last night neither Wakebourne nor the receivers would comment on the deal or on speculation it involved job losses among the 300 employees.

Some 6,500 small shareholders have seen their investments wiped out in the collapse. Many bought Wakebourne shares after a national newspaper made the company "tip of the year" in 1993. The shares had peaked at 320p four years ago.

Tony Scutt, from the Wakebourne Shareholders' Action Group, said: "The receiver has accepted an offer which was apparently on the table the day before the news appeared in the press. If the sale had gone to a proper tender we may have received more money. Now shareholders aren't going to get a chance to voice their opinions on this or quiz the board."