Kleinwort attacked on Amstrad

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KLEINWORT BENSON, the merchant bank advising Amstrad, came under heavy attack yesterday at a shareholders' meeting that confirmed the failure of Alan Sugar's pounds 113m plan to take the consumer electronics group private.

Several shareholders accused Kleinwort of not providing them with independent advice on Mr Sugar's 30p-a-share offer.

Under hostile questioning, the bank admitted it would have received substantial success fees if the buyout had gone through.

The bank's disclosure, made for the first time, sparked a furious row between some shareholders and Tim Holland-Bosworth, a corporate finance director of Kleinwort.

Robin Keddridge, a private investor, said: 'Does it not introduce an element of doubt about Kleinwort's advice when they stood to make windfall fees if the offer had succeeded?' However, Mr Holland-Bosworth said the bank had acted with complete independence.

Mr Sugar later said that the bulk of the fees for the attempted buyout would be borne by him personally.

He told shareholders that he had no plans to leave the group. 'I will continue to steer the ship and will not do anything to damage the company,' he said. 'Life goes on. I will be in the office tomorrow, storming round the rooms as usual.'

Mr Sugar also defended an attack on his board by one shareholder.

He said that Amstrad was looking for non-executive directors who would take 'a very fresh look' at the management.

'If their conclusion is that these gentlemen (the board) are a load of 'plonkers', then they will act accordingly.'

Amstrad shares closed unchanged at 24p yesterday.