SkyePharma battle heats up as vote nears

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The Independent Online

The war of words between the drug developer SkyePharma and rebel shareholders intensified yesterday ahead of next Tuesday's deadline for proxy votes to be cast on the dissidents' demand for a new chairman.

Bob Thian, the chairman of the filtration-paper group Whatman, who has been put forward by the rebels to replace Jerry Karabelas, cut short his golfing holiday in Florida to canvass for votes.

He said some investors had switched sides to support his appointment after receiving a letter from the rebel group led by North Atlantic Value, part of JO Hambro. The dissidents accuse the management of wasting millions of pounds on expensive offices. They say only an independent chairman can turn the company around.

SkyePharma's new chief executive, Frank Condella, retorted: "He is not a big name in pharma and doesn't have a strategy" He added the group would try to reduce office rental costs but disputed the rebels' figures.

Switzerland's HBM Bioventures, the largest shareholder, gave the board its support. Both sides were confident of getting a majority at the emergency meeting on 9 March.

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