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Fight looms over plan for Macmillan

A ROW is looming over the future of Maxwell Communication Corporation between Price Waterhouse, the court-appointed administrators, and a firm of management consultants hired by Macmillan, the group's largest subsidiary.

For the last year Macmillan has retained the services of Talisman Management, a firm of strategy consultants that lists Olivier Roux, the finance director of Guinness during its bid for Distillers, as an associate and has close connections with Michael Ashcroft, chairman of ADT.

Talisman is understood to have recommended that Macmillan be put on sale on the open market to see whether there are any interested parties who wish to buy the group. Sources close to Macmillan said there has already been one approach to buy the group which has been turned away.

PW, however, hired the US bank JP Morgan to look into the best way to maximise Macmillan's value. Morgan concluded that it would be better to float the main publishing business and sell Official Airline Guides, the travel publishing arm.

Talisman has argued that it would be foolish to try and sell OAG at the moment as the sale could turn into a Dutch auction with only one bidder, the UK's Reed International.

The row has caused bad blood between PW and Macmillan. One senior PW partner has suggested that Macmillan's directors should be told to get rid of Talisman.

Talisman, which is staffed mainly by former consultants from Bain & Co, was hired by Macmillan shortly after Robert Maxwell's death in November last year. Two Boston-based partners of the group, Bill Achtmeyer and John Rutherford, were brought in to work closely with David Shafer, the chairman of Macmillan and a director of MCC.

In addition, Rick Grogan, the head of Talisman, worked closely with the management of MCC in the period between Maxwell's death and MCC's collapse in early December. Mr Grogan headed the team that bought Cope Allman, the packaging company, with the help of ADT, and sold it to Bowater earlier this year.

Mr Grogan was closely involved in the decision taken by MCC's directors to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US without telling the bankers who had lent over pounds 1.5bn to MCC.

A PW spokesman said Talisman is designated as 'profit enhancement consultants' working for Macmillan. It is understood that all Talisman's fees are paid directly by Macmillan and are not part of the pounds 15m of fees already charged by accountants, lawyers and consultants working on the MCC administration.