Henlys' quarrel with Matthews escalates

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The Independent Online
THE rift between Henlys and David Matthews, its former chairman and chief executive and largest shareholder, has widened as the car dealer and coach builder prepares to enter the final week of its fight against the pounds 31m takeover bid from T Cowie.

Before attending a presentation yesterday at BZW, brokers to Cowie, Mr Matthews said: 'In the absence of a higher offer, I'll accept the bid. My 7 per cent, as things stand, is going to Cowie.'

He also attacked weekend press comment that implied he alone was responsible for the pounds 6.8m lost last year by Henlys.

'I repeat that all the existing full-time Henlys directors were running the company well before last year, and our policy as a board was to agree together on important matters or not to proceed at all,' he said.

Henlys declined to comment on the personal differences with Mr Matthews, although Robert Wood, chief executive, said: 'He left the company last November. My view is that the man at the top of the tree always has to carry responsibility.'

Mr Matthews again poured scorn on Henlys' claim that it was under new management. By projecting this image, 'Henlys' defence pivots on a myth,' he said.

He believes Henlys would be safer as part of an enlarged group because the company is 'very vulnerable if earnings from its car group diminish for any reason'.

That view was countered by a 'that must also be true for Cowie' statement from Mr Wood, who added that the board was new, with four of six diretors appointed in the past 15 months.

Cowie fell 3p to 119p yesterday, valuing its all-paper offer at 83.3p per Henlys share, which also slipped 3p to 67p.