New Interflora board refuses to budge

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The Independent Online
The new directors running Interflora will tell the organisation's 2,600 members today that they are staying in the job after receiving positive legal advice from a barrister.

As turmoil continued to grip the UK's largest flower delivery organisation yesterday it also emerged that the new Interflora board has suspended the former company secretary and decided to close a wholesale flower subsidiary.

A sweeping review of the business, instigated after the vote 10 days ago to throw out the previous 11-strong board, has also uncovered advanced plans to change Interflora's status from a mutually owned organisation to a fully fledged company.

The barrister's opinion, delivered to the new board's solicitor yesterday, is understood to confirm that the replacement directors do not have to comply with requests for a postal ballot of the entire membership. A petition of more than 400 florists sympathetic to the old board was delivered to Interflora's officers last Friday, asking for a postal vote on the reinstatement of the directors.

In a further twist, the petition did not call at the same time for the removal of the six new directors. A source close to the replacement board said the petition would therefore mean combining the two boards. Such a move was prohibited by Interflora's articles of association, which provide for no more than 11 directors at any one time.

"Advice from the barrister was very positive. Under the articles they cannot have another 11 directors. They're asking for something they cannot have," said the source.

The original meeting at Warwick University saw some 1,000 members narrowly vote to dismiss the old board, led by chairman David Parry, who then called for a full postal ballot. Mr Parry has said he will consider taking legal advice of his own if the new board, led by Bristol florist Geoff Hughes, refuses to comply.

While the legal argument raged, the new board announced the closure of Interflora Flowers, a wholesale delivery offshoot set up three years ago to sell flowers to individual member florists. Eight jobs will go in the process. Interflora said the business had been consistently in the red, losing pounds 12,000 in January alone.

Separately it also emerged that Brian Ward, the former company secretary, had been suspended from his full-time job at Interflora last Friday after disagreements with the new board. Mr Ward had resigned as company secretary after the Warwick vote, but remained a staff member.

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