Rebel investors buy into Tim Bell's PR firm

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The Independent Online
Julian Treager and Bryan Myerson, the self-styled rebel shareholders with a reputation for shaking up underperforming companies, yesterday trained their sights on legendary spin doctor Sir Tim Bell when their UK Active Value Fund bought a 5 per cent stake in his public relations company, Chime Communications, for an undisclosed sum.

But the prospect of Sir Tim, erstwhile adviser to Baroness Thatcher, Boris Yeltsin and Cedric Brown, getting a dose of his own medicine by having to fend off a hostile bid or fight calls for him to go looks remote.

UKAV was at pains to stress that Mr Treager and Mr Myerson would not be demanding Sir Tim's head or seeking to merge Chime with another public relations group. "It is simply a trading investment," said a spokesman.

This was a view echoed by Keith Anderson of Panmure Gordon, Chime's brokers. "UKAV would not be advised to shake up a people business," he said.

It is the second time that UKAV has taken an interest in a public relations company. Three years ago it picked up a 3 per cent stake in Shandwick, Britain's biggest PR firm, when the shares were languishing at 15p. They now stand at 62.5p.

UKAV hopes to make a similar turn in Chime, shares in which closed 0.75p lower at 34.75p - just 0.75p above their placing price in 1994.

UKAV's apparently passive investment in Chime is far removed from the high-profile campaign it has waged to bring about change in other companies.

Mr Treager recently welcomed the ousting of Tim Beech, managing director of the electrical appliances group Kenwood, where UKAV has led a shareholder revolt.

UKAV has also tried - and failed - to engineer a takeover of Greycoat, the struggling property group, with Moorfield Estates, a much smaller rival. Scholl, the foot-care group, and Signet, the former Ratners jewellery chain, have also come in for unwelcome attention from Mr Treager and Mr Myerson.

Chime joined the stock market through a reverse takeover of Chartwell, a tile and toilet cubicle maker.

It is made up of City public relations firms Lowe Bell Financial and First Financial, as well as several political lobbying and consultancy groups.

The high level of corporate activity helped Chime report a 17 per cent rise in interim pre-tax profits to pounds 1.41m on sales of pounds 15.5m, up 32 per cent. New clients included Railtrack, General Accident and Harrods.