Cayzer family battle over Caledonia hots up

The internecine battle within the wealthy Cayzer family over its investment vehicle Caledonia Investments, took another twist yesterday when one of the warring clans was accused of not behaving fairly to all shareholders.

Sir John Craven, chairman of the group that wants to break Caledonia up and sell its assets, accused the Cayzer family of wanting to tighten their control over the investment trust without paying an appropriate premium for the move. Some of the family want Caledonia to embark on a share buy-back programme to try to narrow the discount to its net assets that the trust trades at.

The move would push the Cayzer family's stake in Caledonia to more than 50 per cent. Other members of the family are backing moves by Sir John and other rebels - including institutional shareholders Hermes and Schroders to break up Caledonia. The Cayzer Trust currently owns 37.8 per cent of Caledonia. Other family members control 12 per cent.

Tim Ingram, chief executive of Caledonia, who speaks for the group wanting to keep the investment trust in one piece, spoke out earlier this week against Hermes, accusing it of trying to block his attempts to narrow the discount via share buy-backs.

Sir John, former chairman of the Lonrho conglomerate, responded last night, saying: "Any buyback would allow the Cayzer family concert party to tighten control over Caledonia and possibly even gain in excess of 50 per cent without paying any premium for control. It is difficult to see how this could be in the interests of shareholders as a whole."