'Judas' claim as members turn on Londis directors

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The Londis management is facing a backlash from shopkeepers after being accused of behaving "like Judas" in its treatment of the co-operative's members.

The shopkeepers, who are meeting in London today with lawyers and accountants, are angry at the way they have been treated after separate takeover approaches from the Budgens owner Musgrave and frozen food specialist Big Food Group (BFG).

Musgrave was the first to bid for the 2,200-strong chain of convenience stores, offering £40m, but the terms of the deal caused uproar. While the shopkeepers would receive half the cash - around £10,000 per shareholder - the remaining £20m would be split between the management, a total of four directors.

The BFG bid is also worth £40m but instead gives the directors just £600,000, with the rest going to shopkeepers. Since this bid was put forward, the management has withdrawn its recommendation for the Musgrave deal. But shareholders are still unhappy about their treatment.

Shamus Lehal, who owns a Londis near Bedford, said the Musgrave offer "was a good deal" but the directors did not deserve the payout: "They have all been very well rewarded already." He is also angry management did not tell members about the deal earlier, saying: "They think we're just uneducated peasants."

Mr Lehal said he would vote against the directors' re-election on 30 December at the annual general meeting, adding: "They have done a Judas on us."

The shopkeepers have hired Edwin Coe, the law firm that represented Railtrack shareholders.

A spokesman for Londis said: "We're listening carefully to members and we will be interested to know how the meeting goes."