Ronson shareholders hurl abuse at directors

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The Independent Online

A special meeting held yesterday by the cigarette lighter maker Ronson to approve a rights issue descended into farce with shareholders hurling abuse at the directors.

Farzad Rastegar, who is now a non-executive director and who owns 29.9 per cent of the shares, insisted that the fund raising was the company's last chance. "We are the solution, not the problem," he told the meeting. But during both his speech and another made by Bardia Panahy, another director who chaired the meeting, shareholders laughed and jeered, with one saying: "We don't want a white knight speech," and another yelling: "That is total rubbish."

Another told Mr Rastegar that he was "astonished" that he could "find his desk in the morning". Accusing him of being a "spectre" in the boardroom who had been trying to seize control of the business all along, another shareholder said he had driven Ronson "into the ground".

Despite their outbursts, the company's rights issue looks set to go ahead. While the resolution was rejected on a simple show of hands at the meeting, enough votes are said to have already been cast to carry it in any case. The company has agreed to count the votes over the weekend and will announce the result next week.

Rebel shareholders, who have the backing of Tory Kiam - the son of the late Victor, who was formerly the company's chairman - had been urging others to reject the rights issue. The exercise, they said, would hand control of the business to Mr Rastegar at a deflated price. He could end up with more than 50 per cent of the stock.