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Sandler spurned secret offer to stay on

SIR GEORGE MATHEWSON, Royal Bank of Scotland's chief executive, offered "some weeks ago" to let Sir David Rowland, the NatWest chairman, and Ron Sandler, chief executive, keep their jobs if they agreed to back a takeover of NatWest by RBS. The offer was made at talks in London.

Mr Sandler yesterday blurted out the fact that these talks had taken place in an exasperated response to insinuations that he and Sir David rejected a fresh approach from RBS at the weekend because it would have required them to step aside in favour of Sir George and Fred Goodwin, RBS's deputy chief executive, who would have responsibility for integration.

"All our board is concerned about is realising value for shareholders," Mr Sandler said. "There was some suggestion about personal agendas. A few weeks ago we were invited to play an executive role. We said it was not appropriate that it be considered."

The revelation makes a mockery of repeated claims by NatWest in recent weeks that they had not had any approaches from RBS. It is also likely to anger Bank of Scotland, which has long suspected thatNatWest is conducting a shadow auction with RBS and playing the two Scottish banks off against each other.

The talks appear to have taken place at about the time that a letter purporting to be from RBS to NatWest shareholders proposing a friendly deal fell into the hands of a Sunday newspaper, as a result, it has since emerged, of an RBS adviser misdialing a fax.