Arrested Morrisons executive Paul Coyle held roles ‘key to Ocado deal’

Paul Coyle arrested on suspicion of buying Ocado shares before deal made public

The Morrisons executive arrested for alleged insider dealing in the online grocery group Ocado was a director both of the supermarket’s internet delivery company and its property arm.

Paul Coyle was named yesterday as the man arrested on suspicion of buying a stake in Ocado before it was made public that Morrisons was going to sign a deal which boosted the internet grocer’s share price.

While his main position at the company was as its group treasurer and head of tax, filings with Companies House reveal he also held directorships of companies called Wm Morrison Online Ltd, based at its headquarters in Bradford, and Wm Morrison Property Investments Ltd, based in Glasgow.

The names of the companies suggest both may have been involved in the deal, as it included a property transaction whereby Morrisons would buy an Ocado distribution centre in Dordon, Warwickshire. Morrisons declined to say what either company’s role was.

Mr Coyle’s CV, as listed on the Yatedo website, states how his job at Wm Morrison includes providing support services “on PAYE and other transactional taxes”, as well as “transactional banking”. The former KPMG tax manager joined Morrisons from the RAC, where he had been head of tax, in 2006.

While his Yatedo entry states he was president of the Student Union at Dundee University between 1987 and 1988, the current president denied this, saying Mr Coyle only ran the student’s representative council. Yatedo’s source for the claim is not clear.

Mr Coyle was arrested in Harrogate at the behest of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which has never named him. The organisation said only that the man was a 49-year-old employee of Morrisons.

Documents show that he resigned as a trustee and director of Harrogate District Hospice Care, known locally as the St Michael’s Hospice, last month, four days after his arrest following a premises search by the North and West Yorkshire Police.

Tony Collins, St Michael’s chief executive, said: “He informed us before Christmas that he wished to step down from this voluntary position but gave no reason for this decision.”

The FCA said insider dealing is a criminal offence punishable by a fine or up to seven years imprisonment. It has not said how many Ocado shares were allegedly purchased.

The arrest followed an investigation into events surrounding the announcement of the Ocado deal, which was made to the stock market last March. Prior to the announcement, Ocado’s shares were trading at 100p-130p. The deal transformed investors’ view of the company, leading to speculation it could do deals with other supermarket chains looking to push into UK online groceries like Carrefour of France. Last night the shares were trading at nearly 520p.

Mr Coyle could not be reached, while Morrisons declined to comment. North Yorkshire Police referred calls to the FCA which also did not comment.

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