Family tries to put boot into sale of shoe firm

A SUBSTANTIAL group of family shareholders in C&J Clark, the privately owned shoemaking and retailing company, is hoping to thwart board proposals to sell out to one of three rival bidders for the group.

Directors, advised by Schroders, the merchant bank, are expected to decide between the bidders - Berisford International, FII and a group of venture capitalists - at a board meeting tomorrow. A recommendation to shareholders is likely to be made shortly afterwards.

One leading family shareholder told the Independent on Sunday that there was a substantial minority who wanted Clarks to remain privately owned and had no intention of selling out at the sort of prices being mooted.

The source said that shareholders representing possibly as much as 40 per cent of Clarks' issued share capital were opposed to the sell-out.

All three bidders are confident of securing the recommendation of directors at tomorrow's board meeting.

Berisford International, the troubled commodity group led by Alan Bowkett, believes that its bid of pounds 160m will comfortably exceed those of the rivals.

FII, the Marks & Spencer shoe supplier, is planning an all-shares offer underwritten for cash in the City.

A proposal has also been made by a management group backed by the venture capital arms of Legal & General and Prudential.

Electra Investment Trust, having backed an attempt to take over Clarks last year, is believed to have given up on an independent bid and is joining forces with L&G.

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