Investors boo Wembley: Calls for chairman to resign at stormy meeting

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The Independent Online
DIRECTORS of Wembley, the leisure company, endured 45 minutes of tough, blunt questioning at yesterday's annual meeting.

Amid the barrage, Sir Brian Wolfson, chairman, hinted the US greyhound-racing business may soon be sold. But this did little to placate many of the 100 shareholders present.

The tone for the meeting at the Wembley Conference Centre, adjacent to the national football stadium, the company's prime asset, was set after just five minutes.

Investors vented most of their anger on Sir Brian over the collapsed share price and the pounds 12m lost in 1992.

Maurice Mistovski, first to brandish his yellow card when questions from the floor were invited, asked: 'Have any of you (directors) ever taken a business course? No one else could have made a mess like this.' He added: 'You've had ample time to untangle the mess. You (Sir Brian) should have the decency to resign.'

Sir Brian sidestepped calls for his resignation, leaving his defence in the hands of Sir Peter Thompson, a non- executive, when questions finished.

Sir Brian used the 1985 Companies Act to prevent a proxy holder from speaking on behalf of Logan Gourlay, a former director and now a dissident shareholder. Mr Gourlay's representative, however, circumnavigated the rules by passing a list of questions to David Walker, another shareholder.

Mr Walker, on behalf of Mr Gourlay, quizzed Sir Brian over the dollars 5.5m ( pounds 3.6m) paid last year to Lloyd and Linda Shelhammer in the US.

Sir Brian said the payment was fees for lobbying for video lottery rights in the US and the Shelhammers' option over 20 per cent of United Track Racing, owned by Wembley.

That answer was followed by Sir Peter's speech, built around a positive versus negative appraisal of Sir Brian's performance. Most of the negatives, he said, could be put down to external factors like the recession.