B&B's big four investors want Cowdery back

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The Independent Online

Clive Cowdery, boss of the Resolution buyout fund, has turned down approaches from Bradford & Bingley's big four investors to return to the mortgage lender once its £400m rights issue is underwritten.



Mr Cowdery has not ruled out coming back to B&B at a later date but will wait until after the rights issue is completed for legal reasons. Sources close to Mr Cowdery said on Friday that the investors, Standard Life, Insight, Legal & General and M&G, were still interested in him taking a more active role to help B&B get out of its problems following the surprise withdrawal of the Texas Pacific Group late on Thursday night.

These are the same investors who backed Mr Cowdery's plan to inject £400m into the buy-to-let specialist. Mr Cowdery pulled his proposal, which involved him taking a controlling stake, last weekend after B&B turned down his request to look at the books, and thus infuriated its shareholders. Sources claim that Mr Cowdery had persuade Moody's, the ratings agency, not to downgrade B&B while he put together his rescue package.

It was Moody's decision to downgrade B&B to Baa1 status for a second time that triggered TPG's exit from the deal and led to concerns about further bad economic news.

Shares crashed to a new low of 50p – below the 55p cash call – on Friday as investors contemplated the latest rescue package, masterminded by the Financial Services Authority. An authority spokesman said: "After the disasters of the last few months we are now operating a really tight ship. We had Plan A, B, C & D ready to make sure that B&B would be able to raise new funds."

As well as the big four existing investors, at least six banks are understood to have been persuaded by the FSA that they should take part in the new fund-raising. They include Lloyds TSB, HBOS, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays and Abbey.

One source said: "The FSA could not allow B&B to go under – this was a serious moment for the City and everybody has pulled out every stop to save the bank."

But shareholders are still furious about the way B&B's chairman, Rod Kent, has handled the bank's third rescue operation. They want Mr Kent to step down but his departure would only put more pressure on the bank as it is already searching for a new chief executive – another reason why investors want Mr Cowdery involved.

TPG and B&B's adviser, Goldman Sachs, have also come in for criticism over the way they have handled the rescue, which was hailed only a few weeks ago as a fantastic deal. But TPG has defended its decision, arguing that the downgrade and deteriorating economic climate justified the use of its get-out clause.

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