The woes of the debt-laden Yellow Pages directories publisher Hibu took an unexpected turn as its chief executive, Mike Pocock, fired two senior United States-based executives amid speculation they were plotting a buyout.
Mr Pocock told staff that Jim McCusker, US president, and Mark Cairns, chief publishing officer, had been "dismissed" after "a thorough investigation into conduct by them that the company considered to be disloyal and against the interests of its employees and other stakeholders".
Hibu declined to comment on suggestions that Mr McCusker and Mr Cairns were trying to buy out the US business. But one observer expressed surprise that the pair should be dismissed as both were long-standing employees.
Mr Pocock joined in 2011 in a bid to turn around the company, which has seen revenues plunge because of the internet. Hibu is set to miss payments on some of its £2bn of loans and a debt-for-equity swap with its banks looks all but certain.
The beleaguered company may fear that a management buyout would cut its value even more.