Photo-Me's ex-chief ousts group's chairman

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The Independent Online

The upheavals at Photo-Me, the beleaguered digital imaging chain, intensified yesterday with the interim chairman forced out of his position by a major shareholder who was himself forced out of the chief executive's job in November.

Shares in the company closed slightly up – but still at a woeful 15.5p – after the announcement that David Young had stepped down, along with two other non-executive directors, and that Hugo Swire, a Conservative MP and non-executive director since June 2005, has been appointed as an interim replacement while a permanent chairman is recruited.

The resignations, which were a result of pressure from Serge Crasnianski and two other unnamed former directors, are the latest in a saga of scalps and profits warnings at Photo-Me as the company struggles to establish a business for itself in a world of ubiquitous digital photography.

Mr Crasnianski retained a 19.8 per cent shareholding when he resigned at the end of last year, along with Vernon Sankey, the company's chairman, after a shareholder revolt, spearheaded by Principle Capital and Cycladic Capital, over plans to sell the firm's photo booth business.

Five years ago the business was valued at more than £500m. But shares that were selling for 90.5p in January last year, have been on a continual slide.

In December, when the firm published half-year financial results showing pre-tax profits down 39 per cent to £7.3m and turnover down 3 per cent to £107.1m, they dropped to just 36p. And earlier this month, the stock lost a quarter of its value in a single day – taking it down to 24.5p – with another warning that the company will make a loss this year, rather than the £4m profit originally predicted.

The on-going problems sparked renewed speculation that the firm's days as a public company are numbered.