QXL directors' fury over 'poisonous' bid

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The Independent Online

The independent directors of QXL, the online auction business, last night described a private equity bidder as "poison" for agreeing a deal with a party they accuse of "stealing" the company's valuable Polish operation.

The independent directors of QXL, the online auction business, last night described a private equity bidder as "poison" for agreeing a deal with a party they accuse of "stealing" the company's valuable Polish operation.

In rejecting a £13.6m offer from Florissant, Thomas Power, one of the two independent directors of QXL, said that the bidder had agreed a deal with QXL's former Polish partner. He said that QXL regarded Florissant's dealings with the Polish party, including Arjan Bakker, the local manger who is subject to criminal charges brought by QXL, as immoral.

Florissant had earlier gone hostile with its 800p-a-share offer, having failed to win a recommendation from the company's independent directors.

Mr Power said: "It doesn't make sense to recommend an offer from someone [Florissant] associated with a party that stole the Polish asset. It would be like recommending taking poison."

QXL has claimed that 92 per cent of QXL Poland, which could be worth as much as the rest of QXL, was "fraudulently" signed over to its local management, led by Mr Bakker. The dispute is subject to both civil and criminal proceedings in Poland which have been running for a year.

Sources close to Florissant said that Mr Power's charge of immoral agreements with the Polish operation was "ludicrous". "We've only agreed to do what QXL's directors say is in the best interests of the company, that is, bring the Polish operation back into the rest of the company," the source said.

Reintegration of Poland would double the size of QXL's auction revenues. Under the Florissant deal with Mr Bakker, if the Florissant bid for QXL is successful, both parties would put their shares into a new company and the Polish civil case would be dropped.

On Thursday, the independent directors withdrew a recommendation of a £11.9m offer from QXL's management, which was agreed in November. Mr Power and the other non-executive director, Jim Rose, said that the management approach had "proven to be a catalyst for interest from several parties for all or part of QXL".

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