Boos for the entrepreneur's solitary supporter

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The Independent Online

While Philip Green was hoping to sway the Marks & Spencer board yesterday with more statements of institutional support, the company's private shareholders gave him the clear thumbs down.

More than 3,000 attended the company's annual meeting at the Royal Festival Hall to hear Paul Myners, the interim chairman, defend the company against Mr Green's bid. Only Leonard Bash, a lone private shareholder, stood up and openly backed Mr Green's 400p-a-share proposal. But he was roundly booed by most of the other M&S investors present who will be celebrating Mr Green's withdrawal today.

Individual shareholders own 20 per cent of M&S and those present were adamant that Mr Green should not buy the company.

Mr Myners told the meeting that the business would not open its books to Mr Green because his proposal undervalued the company. He warned shareholders that engaging in due diligence would not result in an increase in Mr Green's 400p-a-share offer but could lead to a reduction. "We are on a knife edge with Mr Green, he's going to steal this company if we are not careful," Mr Myners said before the meeting.

Barry Hyman, a former M&S employee, told the board: "I hope you will hang in there. I prefer M&S through rose-tinted spectacles than turning green round the gills."