Kermans sell large holding in Bristol

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The Independent Online
The struggle for control of Bristol Scotts, the greyhound racing and property group, intensified yesterday after a group of Singaporean investors picked up 27 per cent of the company from the Kerman family, which had controlled it for more than 50 years.

The sale casts doubt on the future of Sir Ian Rankin, chairman for only two months since August, who had said he would like to see the shares in the hands of a range of institutions.

One shareholder said: 'Sir Ian has come out publicly to oppose the sale en bloc of the shares. Now the deal has gone through, he should fall on his sword.'

The shares were acquired by Scotts Holdings, a company controlled by the Singaporean Jumabhoy family. It owns 27 per cent of the shares and is expected to take its holding to 29.9 per cent by the end of the week.

Bryan Burletson, the founder of Clayform Properties and the Jumabhoys' representative in Britain, described the holding as an investment. He said it was not a prelude to a full bid for the company.

It is understood, however, that the Jumabhoy family will be pushing for board representation after the Kermans, three of whom are still directors, step down.

The Jumabhoy group of companies, which is estimated to have net assets of pounds 200m, is focused mainly on serviced apartments in the Far East. It already owns one building in Mayfair, which it plans to convert into apartments.

The uncertainty at Bristol Scotts, shortly to rename itself BS, is the latest upheaval at the company. The controlling Kerman family was attacked at a stormy annual meeting in August.

Isidore, at 89 the UK's oldest main board director, and his two sons resisted pressure to step down but Andy Kerman was forced out of the chair, to be replaced by Sir Ian.

Shareholders revolted after a collapse in the company's fortunes following the 1990 acquisition by Bristol Stadium of Scott's Restaurants, the loss- making owner of five upmarket eateries in London's West End. Both companies were controlled by the Kermans.

(Photographs omitted)