Liberty rebels seek board's surrender

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The Independent Online
Rebel investors in Liberty, the Regent Street retailer, are trying to persuade the board to concede defeat ahead of the planned emergency general meeting on Thursday.

The founding Stewart-Liberty family and Bryan Myerson, the South African investor, who are proposing to oust the group's chairman Denis Cassidy, say the meeting is no longer necessary as they already have the backing of more than half the shareholders.

The rebels claim the outcome has been decided by the apparent decision of the Merchant Navy Pension fund, which has a 3 per cent stake, either to abstain or vote against the board. Either outcome would be a big setback for the board as the Stewart-Liberty family, together with Mr Myerson, already account for 47 per cent of the votes. The family also claims that other institutions may also abstain or vote in their favour.

Odile Griffith, the family's financial representative said yesterday: "The board must realise we've won. We have been asking to meet with the executive directors for some time and we would like to do so at the first opportunity. Normally these things are not discussed in public meetings or via the press."

Last week the board claimed it had won the support of 34 per cent of shareholders. It said yesterday that it would not concede defeat ahead of the meeting. ``Nothing is lost until the votes are cast. The egm is still going ahead.''

If the rebels succeed in ousting Mr Cassidy, the company faces the prospect of losing all its advisers, who have threatened to resign and the possible loss of the two executive directors who have said they may find themselves in an untenable position.

The Stewart-Liberty family have been unhappy with Mr Cassidy's management style and plans to spend pounds 43m on the re-development of the flagship Liberty store on London's Regent Street.

The battle has been a messy affair including a spilt between various branches of the Liberty family. While the Stewart-Libertys formed a concert party with Mr Myerson to oust the chairman, three other branches of the family threw their backing behind the board.