Prospective chairmen keep Brent waiting

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The Independent Online
TWO candidates for the post of chairman at Brent Walker have refused to join the troubled leisure group until Ken Scobie, chief executive and acting chairman, can demonstrate he has the support of the company's 47 banks.

When Mr Scobie was asked whether he was aware of concern among the banks over a bonus paid to him and other members of staff last April, he said: 'Well, who is running the company?'

The bonuses are believed to have surprised the banks because they were not in cash flow projections. Mr Scobie's is said to have totalled pounds 150,000.

Until a new chairman is found Mr Scobie is acting chairman following Lord Kindersley's resignation at yesterday's annual shareholders' meeting.

Mr Scobie would not confirm whether there was any acrimony between himself and the banks but said he had received no calls for his resignation. However, he has yet to receive a contract of employment although he joined on 20 May 1991.

Sources close to the company say that one of the problems Brent Walker faces is that Standard Chartered, whose main presence is outside the UK, lacks the authority to make the syndicate present a united front.

In addition there is a feeling that the company does not need both a chief executive and a managing director. That role is filled by Nicholas Ward, the former Guinness and Macarthy executive.

Brent Walker's accounts for 1991 were qualified because the group's properties that are not up for sale are in the books at cost. If Brent Walker was placed in receivership and they were sold they would fetch considerably less. The auditors, KPMG Peat Marwick, also said that the Serious Fraud Office investigation might have an effect on the group's finances. That investigation should finish within three months, according to Lord Kindersley.

Mr Scobie said that an improvement in trading seen after the election had faded out.

Trading at the Pubmaster subsidiary is showing little sign of recovery. The company now owns more than 900 pubs and is continuing to expand.

William Hill, the betting subsidiary, is experiencing a continuing reduction in the size of bets taken, although the number of bets taken has remained stable. Lord Kindersley said: 'This confirms to us that the business is competitive but the money is just not there.'

The shares were unchanged at 5.25p.

(Photograph omitted)