Sage founder nets £116m from shares sale

Graham Wylie, one of the founders of Sage, yesterday raised £116.3m by selling the bulk of his shares in the Newcastle-based software company he helped set up as a university student.

The move weighed heavily on Sage's share price and sent the stock down 4.5 per cent, or 8.25p, to close at 174.5p, making it the biggest faller in the FTSE 100 index last night. Mr Wylie's shares sale comes only six months after he pledged not to sell any of his shares "for the forseeable future" - at the time of his retirement from the group in the spring.

It was unclear what Mr Wylie had in store for the windfall, although friends said that he has for some time been disenchanted with life in a large company and was now keen to start up a small business.

His enjoyment of the high life, however, is well documented, particularly after he spent a fortune on his wedding in May. The 43-year-old is said to have paid the pop star Ronan Keating about £200,000 to sing at his wedding - a lavish, no-expenses spared event attended by the likes of the Newcastle United footballer Alan Shearer and the team's manager, Sir Bobby Robson.

Guests were said to have been treated to a 10-minute firework display, live opera and ice sculptures while the wedding cake was nine tiers high.

The son of a miner, Mr Wylie is a Newcastle United fan and a sports fanatic. He is reported to have paid £21,000 for a golf flag, signed by Tiger Woods, from the St Andrew's course.

Mr Wylie sold 65.15 million shares at 178.5p each yesterday and Sage said he no longer had a notifiable interest in the company, meaning his stake had fallen beneath 3 per cent. After selling just short of 5 million shares in the company earlier this year for about £7m, Mr Wylie had been left with about 108.5 million shares. He had sold a similar number last year.

Sage was founded in 1981 by David Goldman, the academic Paul Muller and Mr Wylie, who was then a student at Newcastle University. Mr Goldman, who ran a print business, asked Mr Muller and Mr Wylie to develop some estimation software which became the basis of Sage's accounting software.

This week Sage issued a trading statement which signalled pre-tax profits for the year to 30 September would be about £151m, in line with forecasts. Revenues are expected to be about £560m, slightly beneath expectations because of the weaker dollar. About half Sage's sales come from the US.

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