Blackwell directors snub rebel's call

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The Independent Online

Blackwell Publishers, one of Britain's biggest privately-held businesses, yesterday vowed to continue its future as an independent company, after the board threw out a rebel shareholder's proposal to sell up.

However, a statement from the company opened the door to a future sale after it announced that it would appoint a corporate financial to advise on what the most appropriate capital structure was for the business going forward.

The statement followed an emergency board meeting on Monday, convened in response to calls from Toby Blackwell, a substantial shareholder in the family-owned company, to sell the business. The 73-year-old former chairman exposed a family rift that prompted intense market speculation about the future of the Oxford-based publisher of scientific, medical and ecological books and journals.

Rene Olivieri, the chief executive, said the board had "reaffirmed unanimously its commitment to a stand-alone strategy". That said, he added the company was thinking about its capital structure, "both in relation to funding future expansion and how it can provide greater liquidity to shareholders".

Sources close to Mr Blackwell said while he had agreed to support the board's stand, he remained convinced that a trade sale was the best way to maximise value. "I suspect the crisis has been postponed, not averted," the source said.

Mr Olivieri said that the company's focus would remain on bedding down last year's merger between Blackwell Publishing and Blackwell Science and expanding its market share in the US.