Ewart board members threaten chairman with legal action

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THE CHIEF executive and other board members of Ewart, the property group, yesterday threatened to take legal action against their own chairman, Brian O'Connor.

The move is the latest twist in an acrimonious battle for control of the Belfast company, which received a new pounds 25.8m bid approach yesterday. Moyne, a shelf company created for the bid by drinks entrepreneur Paul Hunt, yesterday offered to buy Ewart for 79p a share in cash. This compares with last week's 75p revised offer worth pounds 24.6m from Dublin-based Dunloe House and a share price last night of 78.5p, up 3.5p.

A majority of independent board members at Ewart agreed to accept the Moyne approach but Mr O'Connor voted against it and is urging shareholders to accept the lower offer from Dunloe House which already holds a 26 per cent stake in Ewart and has two places on its board. Mr O'Connor owns 16 per cent of Ewart through his Fortress Hill company.

Barry Gilligan, Ewart's chief executive, said: "We are taking up O'Connor's behaviour with the Takeover Panel and are considering whether to take legal action against him." He believed Mr O'Connor was not acting in the interest of shareholders.

Mr O'Connor said in a statement: "I believe the uncertainty created by the bid situation over the past months should be brought to an end. My action is designed to achieve this."