Highbury brought to book Founder rows with Highbury

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New management grappling to rescue Highbury House, the troubled specialist publisher, were involved in an acrimonious confrontation with the firm's former managing director and founder at the annual general meeting yesterday.

It was the first time Kevin Harrington, who built up the business under the name Harrington Kilbride as a 17-year- old, had come face to face with the board since he resigned last year. Mr Harrington still owns 12 per cent of the shares after a life-or-death refinancing last September by the new chief executive, Ian Fletcher.

Waving a copy of the Cadbury code on corporate governance, Mr Harrington accused the board of conflicts of interest stemming from a magazine contract Highbury had secured with Mr Fletcher's private business empire. The former head of the company repeatedly cross-examined the board on why this information had not been disclosed in the annual report.

In a frank exchange of views, Mr Fletcher attacked his predecessor's business record, charging him with "extravagance".

Harrington Kilbride served up double-digit growth in the early Nineties, but two years ago, told stunned investors a pounds 2m profit was being restated in the accounts as a loss. The shares trade today at 19p, down from 219p in a rights issue in 1993.

Highbury lost pounds 2.7m last year on sales of pounds 12m, but the management, which has been supported by most shareholders, said the situation was gradually improving.