Carpetbagger sets sights on RAC

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The Independent Online
THE ROYAL Automobile Club, Britain's oldest motoring organisation, was thrown into disarray yesterday after the outgoing chairman asked full members to vote to "demutualise" the club.

Taking his cue from the conversion of major building societies - such as the Halifax - to banks, chairman Jeffrey Rose proposed to the members of the club, based in Pall Mall, London, to sell their stake in the organisation in return for either stock market shares or cash.

Mr Rose wrote to all 12,000 full members saying "professional advisers will, of course, continue to be employed at every stage and its their preliminary view that a sum of pounds 20,000 could be realised for each full member".

For a pounds 620 signing on fee and another pounds 600 a year, full members can take a quick swim in the sumptuous surroundings of the central London RAC Club, or swing their clubs at the luxury Woodcote Park country club, near Epsom, Surrey. Under Mr Rose's plan they would also see a 1,900 per cent increase in their investment.

It is not clear how the 6 million associate RAC members, who pay between pounds 29 and pounds 150 for the breakdown service, would benefit. The RAC is rich - with annual sales of pounds 300m it makes a pre-tax profit of pounds 60m a year. Recently the club acquired the BSM empire of driving instructors for pounds 54m.

The RAC management is less than pleased with the moves made by its chairman. A statement released yesterday said Mr Rose, aged 67, "will retire in May".

It adds tersely: "The letter was written without the knowledge or agreement of the Committee of the Royal Automobile Club or the Board of the RAC."