CSG investors snub Ashcroft

SHAREHOLDERS OF Corporate Services Group (CSG), the business services company, yesterday delivered a snub to Michael Ashcroft, the offshore multi-millionaire and Conservative Party treasurer, when they effectively blocked a pounds 290m takeover bid by one of his companies.

At an extraordinary general meeting, over 93 per cent voted to oust three directors of the troubled company and replace them with their own nominated team. Mr Ashcroft had made it clear he was not interested in bidding unless the current directors were retained.

On a turnout of more than 75 per cent of voting shares, the shareholders elected three well-known directors - Michael Davies, chairman of National Express, Gilles Avenel, former finance director of Sun Life & Provincial, and Peter Button, a corporate financier formerly of Dresdner Kleinwort Benson.

Three directors resigned in response to the vote - John Abrahamson, executive director, Ralph Hulbert, acting chairman, and Timothy Holland-Bosworth, a non-executive. Jeffrey Fowler, the former chairman and founder of CSG, resigned two weeks ago.

Schroders, Mercury Asset Management and M&G had called the egm after a March profits warning sent shares into a tailspin, with the price tumbling from over 160p to less than 90p. Yesterday the shares closed down 1p at 88.5p.

Mr Ashcroft's business services company, New Carlisle, was prepared to offer shares and cash worth up to 125p.

Last week New Carlisle offered to raise the cash element if directors were retained. Yesterday Mr Ashcroft said he would not go ahead with the alternative.