Legal threats mount at Forte

JOHN SHEPHERD

and MATHEW HORSMAN

Some of Forte's institutional shareholders will take legal action should the Council of Forte use its crucial 50 per cent vote to block Granada's pounds 3.3bn hostile takeover bid for the hotels company, it emerged yesterday.

Forte's biggest shareholders include Mercury Asset Management, with 13 per cent, Standard Life, Capita and Scottish Amicable.

A source close to one of Forte's main shareholders said yesterday: "The Council is a respectable and independent body.

"It would be unfortunate if such a small shareholder could obstruct the freedom of choice of other shareholders. Under those circumstances no one could blame shareholders for testing the decision in the courts."

The Council itself is to seek a court hearing in the next two weeks to seek clarification of its responsibilities. The three lords, one duke, one earl, two knights, and the Hon Hugh Astor who constitute the Council have also hired the advisory services of Hambros Bank and Macfarlanes, the legal firm.

A decision on the Council's planned action regarding the takeover bid will not be taken until Forte has published its defence document, due a week from today at the latest.

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