Advisers at war over what was said among the flowerbeds

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The Independent Online

The bitter fight for control of Marks & Spencer, which has yet to produce a formal bid, has turned the spotlight on the advisers to the two parties.

The bitter fight for control of Marks & Spencer, which has yet to produce a formal bid, has turned the spotlight on the advisers to the two parties.

Goldman Sachs, the US investment bank that is advising Philip Green, attempted to turn the heat up on Stuart Rose at the weekend. One of its bankers claimed to have overheard the M&S boss telling someone at the Chelsea Flower Show on 24 May that he had been asked to chair Mr Green's bidding vehicle, just days before news of the Bhs owner's intentions leaked out.

Both Mr Rose and his confidante, Bradford & Bingley's finance director Rosemary Thorne, have since denied that this was the case. So upset was Mr Rose at the insinuation about his probity that he fired off a letter to Peter Sutherland, the chairman of Goldman's European business, accusing the bank of "promoting an untruth".

Goldman's yesterday refused to comment but sources close to the bank expressed their scepticism that it would back down. Given Goldman's commitment to put up £800m of the equity in Mr Green's proposed £8.4bn bid, it stands to benefit if the furore over Mr Rose knocks M&S's valuation. Goldman is the second biggest equity investor behind Mr Green, who is putting up £1.1bn.

Meanwhile, the late disclosure of Mr Rose's controversial purchase of 100,000 shares in M&S - on 7 May, the same day Mr Green invited him to a meeting - has raised question marks over one of the retailer's advisers, the public relations group Tulchan. Although Tulchan, on Mr Rose's behalf, maintains that the fact it took the new chief executive 16 days to inform the company in writing about his share dealing was an "oversight" given the weight of other matters on his mind, it took repeated questioning from the press before the full details of Mr Rose's dealings were disclosed. The delay meant M&S breached UK Listing Authority rules, which state that the shareholding should have been declared the day after Mr Rose informed the M&S board.

Even now, the retailer has yet to issue a statement to the Stock Exchange detailing when Mr Rose acquired his shares and at what price. The purchase of 100,000 shares was made on the afternoon of 7 May, at 270p.

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