Company defence

Littlewoods, the privately owned retail group, last night clarified its position in the legal wrangle which has pitted the company against Prodip Guha, its former deputy chief executive.

Mr Guha, who left the Liverpool-based group last October, is suing the company for racial discrimination and wrongful dismissal. Littlewoods says that these proceedings will be "vigorously defended."

Mr Guha left without compensation last year after what has been described as a boardroom coup. The company said yesterday that this was "utter rubbish". In an attempt to underline the board's unity, the Littlewoods' statement was signed by the top three directors, Leonard van Geest, chairman , Barry Dale, chief executive, and John Moores, a director.

Recent press speculation regarding the incident has prompted Littlewoods to elaborate saying that Mr Guha was suspended last October and that a number of complaints were made against him. These included that he had met a journalist without the prior permission of the board which was contrary to instructions.

A further complaint suggested he had deliberately misled or attempted to mislead fellow directors.

Mr Guha's supporters say he has only taken legal action after being "stonewalled" by the company for months. His supporters also allege that Littlewoods has waged a campaign against him since he left the company and that Mr Guha was denied legal representation at meetings to discuss his departure. Littlewoods' statement states that after "a fair and proper consideration of the facts", Mr Guha was dismissed for gross misconduct.

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