Family rift threatens Partridge Fine Arts

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The Independent Online

The fate of a family antiques firm has been thrown into question after the chairman's son stepped in to try to block a lowball bid for the furniture specialist from an art dealership backed by David Mellor, the former arts minister.

Frank Partridge, who quit his father's company abruptly last year, is seeking backers for a possible counter bid for Partridge Fine Arts, the antiques house based in London's Bond Street that has received a £4m partial takeover offer.

The complex offer from Amor Holdings, a company set up to acquire Partridge Fine Arts using £4m of funding from the antiques powerhouse Christie's, has met a hostile reaction from investors outside the family because it undervalues the company. Mr Mellor is a director of Amor.

Frank Partridge, who has a 7.5 per cent stake in the company, said: "There are a lot of very angry shareholders." The bid has sparked a rift between the two generations of the Partridge family, with Frank's brother, who has 7.5 per cent, siding with him against their father, John, who has pledged his 59 per cent shareholding in support of Amor's offer.

Frank Partridge said: "Since I left the company it has gone dramatically downhill." He said he was talking to "wealthy private investors" and was "optimistic" about raising funds to trump Amor's offer, fronted by Mark Law, a porcelain dealer. The prospect of a potential bidding battle sent Partridge Fine Arts shares 3p higher to 46.5p.

Mr Partridge junior has until the extraordinary shareholders meeting on 9 January to come up with an alternative for investors. He has asked his father for access to "due diligence information" and said the two generations were "not planning" to sit down to Christmas lunch together.

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