Gloves off as family feud erupts at Liberty

A bitter family feud has broken out in the battle for control of Liberty, the upmarket Regent Street retailer. The founding Stewart- Liberty family looked certain to succeed in its attempt to oust the group's chairman. But yesterday the board said it had the support of three other branches of the Liberty family dynasty. As the insults start to fly, Nigel Cope, City Correspondent, looks at a messy squabble.

The Liberty board is now claiming it has the backing of 34 per cent of the group's shareholders and has a fighting chance of defeating a motion to oust Denis Cassidy, the group's chairman, at an emergency meeting next Thursday. The board says its support comes from several institutional investors (18 per cent) and three branches of the family who are cousins of the Stewart-Libertys (16 per cent).

This group consists of around 25 members of the Blackmore, Moffett and Codling families. They are all descendants of Emma Louise Blackmore, the second wife of Liberty's original founder, Arthur Lazenby Liberty. As the couple had no children, control of the company passed to the Stewart- Liberty family.

Some insiders say that the Blackmores, Codlings and Moffetts may have decided to back the board as they have been un-impressed with the performance of the company in which the Stewart-Liberty's have long had a dominant role. The other branches of the family have never had any management input into the business.

It is clear that the battle for control has caused a serious rift between the various family factions. One family member backing the board said yesterday: "What the family has done is devious and despicable and we cannot understand why Elizabeth Stewart-Liberty (who requisitioned the EGM in October) is taking this action."

Elizabeth Stewart-Liberty, the widow of the group's previous chairman, Arthur, requisitioned the meeting to oust Denis Cassidy because the family was unhappy over the company's performance and the board's plans to spend pounds 43m on re-developing the group's flagship Mock Tudor store in London's Regent Street. The plans include a food hall and restaurant on the upper floor.

She joined forces with rebel investor Brian Myerson who has a 17 per cent stake even though she had been strongly critical of him in the past. The concert party now has the backing of 47 per cent of the votes.

However, the rest of the board have said that if Mr Cassidy goes they may feel in an untenable position. The advisers have all threatened to resign while the group's bankers may review the funding support for the refurbishment.

The board was in upbeat mood yesterday and has sent out an additional circular to investors. Andrew Garety, finance director said: "We think the vote will be very close. This is why we have sent out another document to remind people that they will not be wasting their vote."

Odile Griffith, the financial representative of the Stewart-Liberty family, disputed the board's level of support yesterday and said the family was confident they would win. "Come Thursday, everything will be revealed."

Though Mr Cassidy and the board still look unlikely to win there are still several blocks of votes to play for. There are several institutions account for 13 per cent of the company, which have yet to show their hand. But the final outcome could well come down to the few hundred private shareholders who control five per cent of the company.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Digital Optimisation Executive - Marketing

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's fastest growing, multi...

Recruitment Genius: Financial Reporting Manager

£70000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Financial Reporting Manager i...

Recruitment Genius: Payments Operations Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They win lots of awards for the...

Recruitment Genius: Telephone Debt Negotiator

£13500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This nationwide enforcement com...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific