HBOS chief's role in M&S bid criticised

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The Independent Online

HBOS has acted to defend its chairman, Lord Stevenson of Coddenham, against accusations that he has compromised his independence by agreeing to be a non-executive director in Philip Green's bid vehicle.

HBOS has acted to defend its chairman, Lord Stevenson of Coddenham, against accusations that he has compromised his independence by agreeing to be a non-executive director in Philip Green's bid vehicle.

City sources said Lord Stevenson could not be independent because HBOS is not only lending money to Mr Green's vehicle, Revival Acquisitions, but will invest over £150m in shares in the company.

"What will Dennis Stevenson be doing - looking after the bank's interest," said one institutional shareholder.

Lord Stevenson declined to talk about the deal with Mr Green. However, a spokesman for HBOS said: "Business life is rarely conflict free, and over his long city career Dennis has shown he is able to manage these conflicts."

The high-street bank denied that Lord Stevenson was an appointee of the bank but admitted that its chairman's contact with Mr Green came through Peter Cummings, HBOS's director of corporate banking. He backed Mr Green's purchase of Bhs and Arcadia before taking a key role in the bid approach for M&S.

Mr Green's law firm, Freshfields, was made to stand down last week after the courts found it had a conflict of interest because it had done extensive legal work for M&S recently.

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