Directors oust chairman as SelecTV dispute boils over: Solicitors review allegations against managing director

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The Independent Online
A SIMMERING boardroom dispute at SelecTV, the production company that owns 15 per cent of Meridian Broadcasting, erupted into the open yesterday when the chairman, Michael Buckley, was thrown out by his fellow directors.

At a board meeting yesterday morning Mr Buckley was asked to resign. He refused, and was then voted off the board, unsupported by any director.

The coup follows a writ issued last week in the High Court in the name of SelecTV against its managing director, Allan McKeown, alleging breach of fiduciary duty and the use of company funds without proper approval.

Peter Laister, a non-executive director, has replaced Mr Buckley as chairman. SelecTV said its solicitors, Richards Butler, were carrying out a review of the allegations.

It is understood that the writ, issued by an independently appointed law firm, Memery Crystal, was at the instigation of both Mr Buckley and Mr Laister.

Mr Laister declined to comment on who was behind the writ. It had been issued without reference to the full board, he said, and it would be withdrawn subject to advice from Richards Butler.

SelecTV shares, which are quoted on the Unlisted Securities Market, slumped by 11 per cent to 15 1/2 p. One shareholder yesterday expressed concern that the review was being conducted by SelecTV's own lawyers rather than an independent body.

In the statement of claim, SelecTV alleges Mr McKeown has been claiming up to pounds 80,000 a year from a subsidiary, Witzend, for rent on London offices he owns - twice the sum agreed by the board.

It also alleges that he invested Witzend money in a play without board approval. The play starred his wife, the comedienne Tracey Ullman, and flopped.

Mr Laister said the allegations would be investigated. 'Nothing is going to get neglected or set aside.'

He said he would be seeking to strengthen the board. 'Mr McKeown is doing his job highly effectively,' he added.