Seafield rebel shareholders turn up heat with detailed critique

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THE dispute over Seafield, the transport and distribution group, continued to escalate yesterday with rebel shareholders, who have called an extraordinary meeting on 10 June, circulating a detailed critique of Seafield's performance.

The circular points to a fall in the company's published assets between its sale of Charterhall Properties last October and the annual results posted last week. Seafield made pre-tax losses of pounds 24.2m in 1993, up from pounds 11.1m. The loss included pounds 17.5m of goodwill written off on the disposal of Charterhall.

Seafield acquired Charterhall, a property developer specialising in retail sites, in 1989 when Tony Wilson, one of the rebels seeking election to the board, was chairman. Mr Wilson said yesterday: 'I did not want to have anything to do with the acquisition, but I was asked to stay so I stayed.'

Mr Wilson denied suggestions that he was later forced to resign. 'The current management are trying to defend their record by saying it was all my fault.' He said his departure in June 1990 was because of the failure to agree terms over his attempted buyout of Seafield's transport and distribution businesses.

Mr Wilson had approved the payment of fees of more than pounds 1.3m to two other directors for arranging the Charterhall deal, partly funded by a rights issue. The fees were not mentioned in the rights documents.

He said: 'The directors were non-executives who worked on the basis of a success fee for introducing a deal to the company. It is not altogether an unusual way of working. There was no mystery about it.'

Both sides in the increasingly bitter dispute are meeting big shareholders later this week. The remaining institutional shareholders include Standard Life, Irish Life and the British Airways pension fund.