Interflora board fired by members

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The Independent Online
Flower power yesterday defeated the entire board of Interflora, the UK's largest flower delivery network. The 11-strong management committee was sacked during a marathon extraordinary meeting called by rebel members fighting the biggest shake-up proposed in the organisation's 74 year history.

Around 1,500 people attended the five-hour gathering at Warwick University, representing about 1,000 of Interflora's 2,500 voting members. The series of motions, to throw out the board, were approved by the smallest of majorities in the ballots. The result could scupper proposals to turn Interflora into a fully fledged company with the possibility of a stock market flotation.

David Parry, Interflora's chairman, immediately called a postal ballot covering all the membership to clarify the issue. The egm then proceeded to vote on whether to instal six new board members backed by the rebels. "The board have been deselected with immediate effect. We need to sit down and digest the result," said an Interflora spokesman.

The rebels were unhappy with plans by Interflora, an association of independent florists acting in a similar way to a club, to shake-up its membership rules. The changes would raise the annual membership fee from pounds 300 to pounds 1,750, but reduce the charge for each customer transaction from pounds 2.99 to 60p. The aim is to challenge the competitive threat from rivals such as Marks & Spencer and the supermarkets.

Interflora, which has annual delivery orders worth pounds 100m, has insisted this will not disadvantage smaller florists, a claim it said was backed up by informal regional soundings of members taken over the past few months. "Members will find that the alteration in charges balances out for the vast majority," said an Interflora spokesman.

The rebels had wanted to delay the changes, a tactic which the management had always admitted could succeed given the Interflora's rudimentary voting structure. The egm motion needed support from just a simple majority of those florists attending. The rebels, led by Leeds florist Bev Wood, had previously claimed to have about 450 supporters.

Interflora had been examining ditching its mutual status and turning itself into a plc. Members, who all own their own businesses, would become shareholders in a newly established company running Interflora's administrative and marketing operations, based in Sleaford in Lincolnshire. They had hoped to put their commercial strategy to Interflora's annual meeting in October.