Jourdan boss to collect pounds 300,000

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The Independent Online
Keith Whitten, the chairman of Thomas Jourdan, makers of the Corby Trouser Press, is in line for a pounds 300,000 pay-off if a shareholder rebellion led by David Abell, the veteran corporate raider, unseats him from the board at an extraordinary general meeting next Tuesday.

Mr Whitten's service contract pays him pounds 167,000, including pension contributions and benefits in kind. The contract is on a rolling 24-month basis.

This weekend Mr Whitten admitted he faced defeat in the motion and would be leaving the company after 10 years, the last nine as chairman.

"There is no question of me resigning. I will turn up to the meeting, but I expect the motion to unseat the board to be carried unless we can persuade some of our larger shareholders to back us," Mr Whitten said.

Mr Abell, his immediate family and his business partner John Pither between them control 28 per cent of the company. A further 10 per cent is held by Roger Devlin and Ed Crutch, both of whom are friends of Mr Abell but did not declare their support for him until they had amassed their respective stakes.

Last month, the Takeover Panel ruled that Mr Abell's "concert party" had not been formed until all the stakes had been amassed, and was therefore not subject to the usual Panel rule that obliges shareholders to launch a takeover bid once they and their associates control more than 29.9 per cent of a company.

Thomas Jourdan's two largest shareholders, Henderson and M&G, hold 20 per cent of the company between them. Both have indicated they will abstain. A third, Jupiter Asset Management, with 6.8 per cent, is believed to be supporting Mr Abell.

"It is frustrating that the shareholders want to change riders just as the company is regaining its stride," Mr Whitten said.