Interflora torn by thorny question of who's in charge

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The Independent Online
The turmoil at Interflora threatened to turn to farce last night. Having voted in a board of rebel florists at an extraordinary meeting on Sunday, the association's short-lived flirtation with democracy was in jeopardy following the shelving of a promised postal ballot on the dramatic ejection of its previous management.

The bunker mentality of the newly instated executives looked likely to be brief, however. It emerged yesterday that friends of the ousted board were moving to raise the support of enough loyalists to insist on a postal vote that would almost certainly put them back in power. A resolution to that effect would require the signatures of only 10 per cent of the association's 2,600 florists.

At the heart of the row that has split the 74-year-old flower delivery association is an arcane voting rule that allowed its management to be thrown out of office at the weekend by a simple majority of votes at an extraordinary meeting packed with rebels. The board was narrowly shown the door by a minority of members for attempting to push through controversial proposals to change membership subscriptions and convert the association into a plc.

In a memo to its members issued last night, Interflora's new chairman Geoff Hughes adopted a defensive tone: "The six directors elected at Sunday's egm have been appointed for a period of 6 months. And I would like to make it clear that the appointments are legally valid and have not been challenged in any way."

He went on to say: "Legal implications concerning the possibility of a postal vote are receiving our attention but there is no immediate urgency in this matter. We very much regret the unsettling effect that this is having on some of you."

The upheavals at Interflora head office in Sleaford, left one of the association's best known names bemused yesterday. Richard Felton, whose grandfather was one of the original 16 florists who created Interflora in 1923, said from his Canary Wharf shop: "The one thing that's clear is that the service is heading for a rather large legal bill. On the evidence given, the mid- to long-term benefits of the proposed changes looked attractive. What was less attractive was the Gestapo-style do-as-you're-told approach of the old board."