Allders owner nets £35m in share sale

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The Independent Online

The chairman of Minerva, the property company that controlled the failed department store group Allders, cashed in £35m worth of shares yesterday after announcing his retirement from the group he co-founded 17 years ago.

The chairman of Minerva, the property company that controlled the failed department store group Allders, cashed in £35m worth of shares yesterday after announcing his retirement from the group he co-founded 17 years ago.

As Sir David Garrard pocketed his windfall, thousands of Allders's pensioners were still struggling to come to terms with the possibility that the department store group's collapse could wipe out their retirement income.

Sir David's parting message to the remaining Minerva shareholders was to reassure them that the company believed it had "no liability" for the pension fund deficit. He said Minerva had been advised that "any action which may be taken against it by the new pension regulator is unlikely to succeed".

Allders's pension fund is thought to need up to £70m to cover its liabilities when it is wound up. The fund has about 500 pensioners and nearly 3,000 deferred members, who have not yet reached retirement age. The group's collapse has left a big question mark over their future income.

Clive Gilchrist, Allders's independent trustee, said the expectation was still that the scheme would be wound up "at some stage". He added: "We are watching the administrator's sale of assets with interest and awaiting developments." Kroll, the administrator, has sold more than half of Allders's 45 stores.

Sir David, 66, sold 13.46 million shares in Minerva - worth some £35m - cutting his stake to 3.3 per cent. Andrew Rosenfeld, the current chief executive, will replace him as chairman. Analysts said Sir David's departure and share sale would reopen bid speculation.

Minerva revealed yesterday it had sunk to a £20.6 interim loss after writing off its majority stake in Allders.

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