Moores reject Littlewoods bid

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The Moores family re-exerted its grip on the Littlewoods empire yesterday when it voted against a pounds 1.2bn offer for the company from its former chief executive, Barry Dale.

At an emergency meeting held on an icy day in Liverpool, the 32 family shareholders voted not to open the company's books to Mr Dale.

The family also overturned a resolution that would have encouoraged other bidders to come forward.

Board members voted by an overwhelming majority to discourage any other offers and urged them to be withdrawn in order to end uncertainty.

Littlewoods' chairman, Leonard van Geest, said after the meeting: "The outcome of the meeting shows that shareholders have strongly supported the board's advice to reject the Bidco [Barry Dale] approach.

"The voting at today's meeting also clearly shows that shareholders have no immediate intention that the company should be sold. The board now expects other potential offerers to recognise the wishes of shareholders and not prolong the period of uncertainty generated by Bidco's approach."

Commenting on the defeat, Mr Dale said: "The result was not surprising but we remain actively interested and we'll see what happens."

The vote is also a blow to Sir David Alliance's pounds 1.1bn offer for the group, which he made in conjunction with Iceland, the frozen food retailer.

It was a tense day on Merseyside, where the company is one of the most prominent employers. As the crunch meeting was going on in the sixth-floor boardroom it was business as usual at Littlewoods' 15-storey HQ. Hundreds of vistors came and went at the stainless steel and blue glass monolith.

Mr Van Geest would not rule out a stock market flotation but said the family would complete a review of options. "We are talking about some very important issues," he said. "Let's not rush them and let's not try and put a time scale on it."