Rethink at Shearings

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The Independent Online
The long-running saga of the management buyout of the Shearings coach-holiday business from Rank Group took a new twist this weekend when it emerged that Angus Crichton-Miller, the former Rank director leading the bid, will not bechairman of the new company.

Instead Mr Crichton-Miller, 57, who resigned from the Rank board in July when he announced he intended to lead a buyout bid for Shearings, will take on a reduced "consultancy" role with the new company.

The buyout is being funded by Natwest Ventures and expects to pay between pounds 70m and pounds 80m for Shearings, which sold 450,000 holidays last year and is the market leader in coach holidays. It made profits of pounds 8m last year on turnover of pounds 100m.

Negotiations between Rank and the buyout team have been dragging on since July. Earlier this month the company named the Natwest-backed bid as its preferred option, and the due diligence is expected to be completed by the end of this month in time for an official announcement in early December.

A source close to the deal said: "John Slatcher [managing director of Shearings] will be in charge of the day-to-day operations and Angus Crichton- Miller will be retained in a non-executive role. But it is not true to say that he is leading the bid nor will he become chairman of the new company."

The source added that an independent chairman will be appointed after consultation between the management team and Natwest Ventures.

The buyout is the first plank of a pounds 300m disposal strategy outlined by Rank's new chief executive, Andrew Teare, who wants to refocus the group on higher-margin resorts holidays and leisure centres. Shearings became part of Rank as a result of its 1990 takeover of Mecca.