The former Littlewoods chief executive Barry Dale was yesterday putting the final touches to his pounds 1.1bn bid for his ex-company before seeking clearance from the Takeover Panel.
News of the approach from Mr Dale caught some Littlewoods senior management and shareholders on the hop. Some members of the Moores family - which owns every share in the Liverpool-based stores, football pools and mail order combine - had not been informed of his intentions, made plain to the chairman, Leonard Van Geest, at a meeting in the Grosvenor Hotel in London last week.
Embarrassed senior executives have been trying to play down Mr Dale's move since then, while concerned shareholders alerted the Takeover Panel.
A panel spokeswoman said yesterday that while Littlewoods was a private company - one of Britain's largest unquoted businesses - it still fell within the the regulator's remit. She would neither confirm nor deny that the panel had requested a formal meeting with Mr Dale.
It was important, the official said, that Mr Dale and his backers - believed to be a consortium of private individuals and banks - had space to finalise their plans. "People have to be given time to gather their ammunition together," she said.
Some members of the Moores family were meeting in London yesterday with their lawyers and accountants.
Company sources were publicly claiming it unlikely the family, which sacked Mr Dale only last March, would sell him their inheritance. Others pointed out privately that morale among the Moores, battered by internal feuding and a slump in performance, was at an all-time low.