Ronson chief hits out at 'vitriol and smear'

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The Independent Online

Farzad Rastegar, the chairman of the cigarette lighter maker Ronson, yesterday hit back at rebel shareholders trying to unsettle a rescue rights issue and have him ousted, saying it has become a "personal campaign" and warning that the company had no future without the planned fundraising.

"I'm very sad to see that what is clearly a corporate matter has become a personal campaign of vitriol and smear," Mr Rastegar said.

The rebel shareholders, backed by Tory Kiam - the son of the late Victor, who was formerly the company's chairman - are urging others to reject the rights issue at a special meeting on Friday. They say the exercise would hand control of the business to Mr Rastegar at a deflated price. He currently owns 29.9 per cent of the shares and could end up with more than 50 per cent of the stock.

Mr Rastegar said: "This [the rights] is the last chance. The board has no idea what it would do if the resolution was shot down." He also said he intended to have shares in the company re-listed on the stock market as soon as was possible after the exercise.

City sources said that they believed that Nicos Malamatinas - who is heading up the shareholder action group - has mounted the campaign to try to get a seat on the Ronson board.

Mr Rastegar said that he was not aware of any alternative financing plans for the company from the shareholder action group. He denied claims he had turned down a previous offer of a loan from Mr Kiam.