Rescuer pulls out of Seafield talks

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SEAFIELD, the troubled transport group whose board is under attack from dissident shareholders, said yesterday a potential rescuer had pulled out of takeover talks as a direct result of the row.

Brian Chilver, Seafield's chairman, said negotiations with other possible partners were continuing. 'We are too small for a public company. We need to grow by merger with a similar or bigger company,' he added. The board was likely to make further announcements this week.

Mr Chilver said Tony Wilson, one of the challengers seeking election to the board at an extraordinary meeting on 10 June, had been forced to resign as Seafield's chairman in June 1990 because he had made an unauthorised pounds 1.28m payment to a fellow director.

The payment was a fee to Dennis Jones, a non-executive, for arranging the takeover of Charterhall Properties from Fidex International. Mr Chilver said the payment had not been approved by the Seafield board and had not been disclosed in the offer documents. Mr Jones later repaid pounds 250,000 but moved abroad without returning the rest.

Mr Wilson said that he had resigned as chairman because he was not keen on the property acquisition. 'It is totally ludicrous to say that I was the one who had the idea of getting into property development,' he said. He would like to restore the fortunes of the core transport and distribution business he had built out of the original Seafield shell.

Fidex International, with an 18 per cent stake in Seafield, is backing the shareholder rebellion. The proposed replacement directors, Mr Wilson and Robert Cosby, will visit institutional shareholders later this week.

The rebels claim to speak for 25 per cent of the votes. Since Seafield has more than 2,000 small shareholders this could represent a much bigger proportion of votes cast at the extraordinary meeting.