Green sacked as Co-op fires off more letters

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The Independent Online
The Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS) has fired off another batch of incendiary letters, one each to suspended executives Allan Green and David Chambers, whom it sacked on Friday, and another to Travers Smith Braithwaite, the law firm representing Andrew Regan's failed pounds 1.2bn bid.

The CWS accuses the law firm of "a serious error of professional judgement".

In a whirlwind of legal activity, the CWS has written to the London Stock Exchange demanding an immediate enquiry into the possibility of insider dealing in the shares of Mr Regan's Lanica trust.

The CWS has also written to the Department of Trade and Industry, the Bank of England and the Serious Fraud Office concerning the affair, while its lawyers have written to all 17 companies that were shown confidential CWS information by the Regan camp.

There were press reports yesterday that the Regan camp intends to put Galileo, its vehicle for the CWS bid, into voluntary liquidation. No comment was available from Galileo.

It emerged yesterday that CWS company secretary Roger Jones wrote to Mr Green on Friday to inform him of his "summary dismissal forthwith".

The sacking followed the high court hearing that morning at which Mr Justice Lightman banned Andrew Regan and his associates from using seven boxes of confidential CWS documents provided by Mr Green to Mr Regan. Mr Green and Mr Chambers were both suspended by the CWS on 18 April.

Mr Jones wrote that Mr Green's sacking "follows the sordid facts revealed in your recent affidavit and those of Messrs Regan, Lyons [David Lyons, Mr Regan's business partner] and others of betrayal of the CWS, your colleagues and loyal staff".

"I can only say that I agree totally with Mr Justice Lightman who referred to `the clear evidence of a gross, wilful and disgraceful breach of confidence'."

Mr Jones added: "You are required to return your car and any other CWS property immediately."

The CWS letter to David Chambers referred to his "close association with Mr AA Green", which made it impossible to separate them in the context of Mr Green's "recent betrayal of CWS". Mr Jones added: "There is evidence of your recent contact with Mr Regan which you failed to explain adequately when given the opportunity to do so on the 18th [of April]."

Mr Chambers was also required to return his car.

On Saturday, Graham Melmoth, chief executive of the CWS, wrote to Alan Keat, senior partner at City law firm Travers Smith Braithwaite, referring to an article in The Independent on Saturday.

Mr Melmoth wrote: "I see that a public relations firm, said to be acting on your behalf, rang [The Independent] on Friday and told them that the `stuff put out by Melmoth ... was a distraction, a sideshow' to the CWS's poor performance.

"You add serious insult to the injury which you have already caused to us."

Mr Melmoth then points out: "One of your most senior partners had sensitive and highly confidential CWS board minutes on his files. Anyone who could read would have known that they were confidential to the CWS ... did he satisfy himself that the documents had come from a legitimate source or by a legitimate means?"

The CWS boss concludes: "The conduct of your firm in this debacle is certainly not a `distraction' nor a `sideshow'. If you believe this to be so, you are making a serious error of professional judgement."

The CWS is particularly incensed by suggestions that it is still "in play". Mr Melmoth said on Friday that the mutually owned organisation was "not for sale under any circumstances".

Over the weekend press reports suggested that Credit Suisse First Boston was interested in bidding for the CWS. Sainsbury's said during Mr Regan's failed bid attempt that it was interested in buying some CWS food stores, while Allied Irish Bank also said it wanted to buy the Co-op Bank.

Yesterday a CWS spokesman reiterated its stance that the group was not for sale, saying the board accepted it needed to improve the group's performance, and that a strategic review started last November should be completed later this year.

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