Stakis chief quits before 35m pounds issue

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The Independent Online
SIR Lewis Robertson, the 70-year-old chairman who has saved Stakis from probable collapse, is to announce his retirement from the hotels and casinos group prior to a pounds 35m rights issue.

His departure has come after criticism of his age and his role as chairman of Lilley, the Glasgow-based construction company which went into receivership two weeks ago. The collapse came after he published a bullish statement of its business.

Sir Lewis's replacement will be Richard Cole-Hamilton, the former chief executive of Clydesdale Bank who joined Stakis' board as a non-executive director last year. David Michels, the former head of Hilton UK, will remain chief executive, a job he took over from Andros Stakis, son of the group's founder, Sir Reo.

Sir Lewis is expected to announce his retirement at Thursday's results meeting, but will stay on until the end of the year. At the same time, Stakis is expected to unveil a one-for-three rights issue and a joint venture on its nursing homes business, which will enable it to develop 19 sites, worth pounds 40m.

Stakis has been meeting institutional investors to smooth the way for the rights issue. Many institutions are understood to have raised the question of Sir Lewis' position and have been reassured by the appointment of Mr Cole- Hamilton.

The group has pounds 200m of debt, and its standstill agreement with its 21 bankers runs out at the end of March. Stakis has been under pressure to reduce its debt since it failed to sell its casinos operation, put up for sale in 1991, two weeks before the London Clubs flotation was cancelled in controversial circumstances.

The rights issue will be at around 35p, compared with a share price which closed on Friday at 43p, a rise of 5p.

The joint venture on its nursing homes operation, Ashbourn Homes, will involve the sale of 50 per cent of the operation to a third party, bringing in around pounds 30m cash. The partner will fund the development of the nursing home sites on Stakis' books, which will then be operated by Ashbourn Homes.

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