Wallis springs shock pounds 283m Marley bid

JOHN MANSFIELD GROUP, a timber merchant worth just pounds 16.7m and chaired by former Fisons chief executive Stuart Wallis, yesterday launched a surprise pounds 283m break-up bid for Marley, the struggling building materials group.

Mr Wallis, who intends to reduce Marley to a rump floor coverings business, was installed as chairman at Mansfield last year by Brian Myerson and Julian Treger after their company, UK Active Value, took a 65 per cent stake. Mr Myerson said yesterday he had been asked by institutions to adopt this unconventional approach.

In what amounts to a management buy-in, Mansfield is offering 15 new shares for every ordinary share in Marley together with a cash offer for Marley B shares at 11.7p, valuing the company at 97.5p a share. Phillips & Drew, the biggest shareholder in Marley with a 14.9 per cent stake, has already backed the deal.

Mr Wallis, who worked with Mr Myerson on the recent merger between Seton and Scholl, yesterday attacked the record of Marley, led by chief executive David Trapnell. "Over the last six or seven years the management has failed Marley's shareholders. This has been a ghastly story - if I had a track record like this I would be concerned."

Mansfield said shares in Marley had yielded a return of just 6.4 per cent a year since Mr Trapnell's appointment in December 1992, while the FT All Share index had returned 16.9 per cent.

Mr Wallis said Marley had made ill-judged purchases and criticised a six-month strategic review, which concluded in September that no change was needed. He also slammed a share option scheme for Mr Trapnell, launched last month, which halved his exercise price from 122p to 66p.