Interflora rebels plan buyout showdown

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The Independent Online

Rebel Interflora florists have called a meeting this Sunday to rally support for their attempt to defeat an agreed £23.2m buyout by 3I, the private equity group.

The Interflora Stakeholders Association (ISA), one of two action groups fighting the proposed sale, has written to all 1,893 members of the mutual asking them to attend a meeting in Coventry.

They have just over two weeks to persuade fellow florists to scupper a deal that will hand control of the 80-year-old flower delivery network to an outsider for the first time in its 80-year history. The board, which will take a 14 per cent stake in the new business, needs approval from 75 per cent of members for the sale to go ahead.

The vote is scheduled for 23 January. More than two hundred florists are expected to convene at the Allesley Hotel this Sunday. David Adair, who is spearheading the ISA's efforts, said yesterday: "We are confident that they won't get their 75 per cent."

The board believes the sale will safeguard Interflora's future because it will provide it with enough funds to withstand intense competition from the likes of Tesco and Asda. But florists disagree.

Mr Adair said: "It is rather a drastic solution to think that the way to become more commercial is to sell the family silver." The ISA will attempt to persuade florists that they should fight to retain ownership of their association.

"We can set up a trading entity within Interflora itself which is owned by the members and can work as a commercial entity. Everybody can buy into this business plan," Mr Adair said.

Interflora's members will receive between £5,000 and £12,000 for their stakes and can choose whether to take the cash or reinvest it for up to a 35 per cent stake.

3I will control 49 per cent, leaving the remaining 2 per cent in the hands of a new chairman.