Ex-director of West Bromwich Albion to sell off 25.3% stake

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A DISGRUNTLED ex-director of West Bromwich Albion plc, the holding company for the first division football club, is to sell his 25.3 per cent stake after becoming disillusioned with the club's management and mediocre performance.

Paul Thompson, who is chairman of Sanderson Electronics, a Sheffield- based firm, and who is WBA's largest shareholder, yesterday placed an advertisement in the Financial Times in the hope of attracting new investors such as Rupert Murdoch, the media tycoon, or Mohammed Al Fayed, the Harrods owner, to revive the financial fortunes of the ailing club.

Mr Thompson said: "It was a decision taken reluctantly, but in the hope it will provide a sound platform for someone to acquire the largest shareholding in the club and introduce a business plan, together with any related investment, to drive the club forward."

Earlier this month Mr Thompson, who has pumped over pounds 2m into the club and who has twice attempted to oust WBA's chairman, Tony Hale, said: "I'm saddened by Albion's lack of progress.... I'd sell if I thought it would move the club forward, or if someone like Al Fayed or BSkyB [Mr Murdoch's media company] came in."

Mr Al Fayed, as the owner of Fulham football club, would be forbidden under FA rules from buying Mr Thompson's stake unless he deserted Fulham. .

Mr Thompson's most recent challenge to Mr Hale's leadership, which was supported by his fellow ex-directors Barry Hurst and Clive Stapleton, was at the company's agm on 11 November.

Tony Hale won by a majority of 35,698 to 10,234. But 32,000 of these came from Mr Hale's own block of shares and those of his allies, Joe Bandrick and Graham Waldron. Only 40 per cent of the club's total 87,447 shareholders wanted Mr Hale to remain and Mr Thompson did not vote.

Mr Thompson said yesterday's announcement was prompted by Mr Hale's re- election and "the apparent absence of an approved business plan". The board of WBA refused to comment. WBA has languished mid-table in the first division since it was promoted in 1993. On 15 October the club posted a pre-tax loss of pounds 2.257m on turnover down 10 per cent at pounds 6.758m.