Share Centre founder promises free shares

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Gavin Oldham, founder of The Share Centre, will be worth more than £40m following the flotation of the Aylesbury-based private client stockbroker later this year. Mr Oldham, who yesterday promised free shares to his customers, owns about 80 per cent of the company through direct and indirect holdings, and plans to raise around £1.5m of capital when The Share Centre floats in May.

Mr Oldham announced the broker would award 200 free shares in the company to investors who put the maximum £7,000 into a tax-efficient individual savings account with the company in the 2007-08 or 2008-09 tax years. Some 4 million free shares will be available, with the windfalls, worth around £60 each, allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Mr Oldham launched The Share Centre in 1990 and was a notable survivor of the boom and bust in the online share-trading market during the late 1990s, following which many of his rivals pulled out of their business.

This is the second time that customers have been offered free shares, following a similar exercise in 2001.

Stock in the company is currently tradable on an internal market maintained by the broker, which is expected to continue following the float.

The broker will float on the Alternative Investment Market and is expected to be worth around £60m.