Monsoon founder in 11th-hour plea for support

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Peter Simon, the founder and chairman of Monsoon, made an 11th-hour appeal last night to shareholders to back his controversial attempt to increase his family's stake in the retailer to 92.5 per cent ahead of Friday's deadline.

The Simon family trust yesterday revealed that investors representing 0.9 per cent of the company's stock had exercised their put options, giving the Monsoon boss the right to acquire their shares for 140p and increasing the combined family shareholding to 74.9 per cent.

However, the holding was still below the crucial 75 per cent threshold that Mr Simon needs to complete a move that has been roundly criticised by the City as an attempt to take control of the company on the cheap.

Angry institutional investors, who are waiting to see who will blink first between now and Friday's deadline, have accused Mr Simon of abusing his power as a majority shareholder.

They are furious that Mr Simon's ploy to take control of up to 92.5 per cent of the company, move it from the main market to AIM and stop paying a shareholders' dividend was enacted during the retailer's so-called "closed period" when it cannot communicate with the City and before it revealed that recent like-for-like sales had shot up by 10 per cent.

They are also cross that after they were persuaded to buy the put options, Rose Foster, Monsoon's highly regarded managing director, announced that she would stay with the retailer rather than quit to join Littlewoods.

Shareholders believe Monsoon, which brought ethnic fashion to the high street, is worth more than 240p a share given its recent runaway sales performance and its prowess as a retailer. Yet Mr Simon is attempting to up his family's stake for the bargain price of just 140p - or 136.5p excluding the dividend.

Ms Foster announced her volte-face last month in return for the title of chief executive and what is believed to have been a substantial bonus from Mr Simon to stay.

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