Outlook: Slough/Bilton

THE PROPERTY sector is a funny old rag-bag of companies. Many of them don't deserve to be separately listed entities at all, the original entrepreneur and driving force having long since departed, leaving a collection of disparate properties run rather in the manner of a gently declining family estate. And yet there they all are, with their highly paid boards of directors, poshed-up Mayfair head offices, and army of shareholders to support. Consolidation is not a word these companies seem even to recognise, let alone want to hear.

Bilton is one such enterprise, though to be fair, the company is based in sunny Ealing, not Mayfair. The original founder, the gloriously named Percy Bilton, passed away many moons ago, leaving the enterprise in the hands of Ron Groom, the present joint managing director. As a trustee of both the Percy Bilton 1954 Settlement and the Percy Bilton Charity, which together own 34.7 per cent of Bilton PLC, Mr Groom maintains an apparently unassailable grip on the company, despite the fact that he doesn't appears to be a beneficiary of either.

In fact, the actual beneficiaries, members of the original Bilton family, would over the years have done much better if they had stuck their nest egg into unit trusts. Belatedly, some of them have begun to realise this, partially opening the door to the present pounds 264m hostile takeover bid from Slough Estates.

Slough has been complaining about what an atrociously run company Bilton is. Its financial strategy has been "inappropriate" and its approach to new development "misguided", Slough said in another broadside yesterday. More seriously, it in effect accuses Mr Groom of using his position as a trustee of the family interest to run the company as a personal fiefdom.

It ought to be pointed out that Slough itself is not entirely without blemish in this department. Sir Nigel Mobbs, executive chairman, is the grandson of the original founder, Noel Mobbs, so Slough Estates is a property dynasty too. Even so, in recent years it has been a good deal more successful than Bilton; under Sir Nigel it has become a big, well managed, serious company with a strong investment following. The same cannot be said of Bilton, which seems to have been run without a great deal of concern for the interests of outside shareholders.

The Bilton family trust and the parallel charity will be concerned to ensure that Slough pays a full price, but they'd be foolish to stay with the present set-up. And Slough is of course absolutely right to say that Mr Groom has a terrible conflict of interest.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Account Manager - (Product & Account Management, Marketing)

£26000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Account Manager - (Produc...

Training/Learning and Development Coordinator -London

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Training/Learning and Development Co...

Training Programme Manager (Learning and Development)-London

£28000 - £32000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manage...

.NET Software Developer (.NET, C#, ASP.NET, front-end)

£30000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organi...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried