Liberty family attacks board decision to sell up after 125 years of retailing

The `for sale' sign was yesterday hoisted over Liberty, the upmarket retailer. The company's board took the decision to prevent Liberty's founding family and a rebel shareholder from trying to win control of the group without paying a premium price. Nigel Cope, City Correspondent, reports.

Liberty would be valued at pounds 84m at yesterday's closing share price, which soared 25p to 377.5p. Nick Bubb, retail analyst at Societe Generale Strauss Turnbull, said possible buyers of the Regent Street retailer could include House of Fraser, which owns the Dickens & Jones and DH Evans department stores, and Great Universal Stores, the mail-order group which owns Burberry and Scotch House. GUS has sufficient cash resources for a bid and has been rumoured to be interested in expanding its high street retailing interests.

Other buyers could include Allders, the department store group which has been looking for a central London flagship store, and Harvey Nichols, the Knightsbridge store group which has been expanding fast. Another possible buyer would be Harrods, the Knightsbridge department store group owned by Mohamed Al Fayed. Overseas buyers keen on snapping up a trophy London asset may also be interested.

The plan to seek buyers for the 125-year-old company was attacked by the Stewart-Liberty family which has aligned itself with Bryan Myerson, a rebel shareholder. The two groups, which between them account for 44 per cent of the shares, said they would press ahead with their plans to oust Denis Cassidy as chairman and appoint Mr Myerson and Odile Griffith, the family's financial adviser, as joint chairmen.

Liberty's managing director, Ian Thomson, said the board was seeking to act in the interests of all shareholders. It criticised the Stewart- Liberty family and Mr Myerson for attempting to gain control without paying a premium and without giving other shareholders the opportunity to exit. "We believe that it is improper in terms of corporate governance.

"The company is in much better shape than it was 18 months ago. There could be a number of companies that would be interested."

The board revealed yesterday that in June Mr Myerson had proposed that a shell company be established to take over Liberty. Mr Cassidy and the two other executive directors, Ian Thomson and Andrew Garety, would have been granted a 10 per cent stake between them. The board said the bid would have diluted the Stewart-Liberty shareholding.

The board rejected the proposal though Mr Myerson then made a second proposal in July. This would have involved separating the retailing and wholesaling operations of Liberty from the property, brand and licensing interests.

This revised plan would have included a share option scheme which Mr Myerson claimed could have yielded pounds 8.3m to the three executive directors over five years.

The board said this would also have diluted the family shareholding.

However, the family and Mr Myerson confirmed yesterday that they will stick to an irrevocable undertaking to act in concert for six months.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Sales Assistant / Buyer

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test