Newcastle chairman is set to resign

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SPECULATION was mounting last night that Freddy Shepherd, the chairman of Newcastle United, is preparing to resign following newspaper reports that he insulted fans, players and the women of the North-east.

Mr Shepherd flew to Barbados on Concorde with his wife Lorelle and is not due back for at least a week.

Last night his solicitor Michael Winskell would not confirm that Mr Shepherd intended to stay at the club.

It is understood that information regarding Mr Shepherd's position at the club was being provided to the Stock Exchange and a statement could come as early as this morning.

The club's vice-chairman, Douglas Hall, who is also accused of making the disparaging comments, has indicated through his solicitor that he has no intention of resigning. Mr Hall holds 57 per cent of the club's shares, while Mr Shepherd has 7 per cent stake.

Three of the Newcastle holding company's non-executive directors will meet today to consider whether to resign in protest if the pair do not bow to the demand from supporters that they step down.

Sir Terence Harrison, the chairman of Alfred McAlpine, John Mayo, the former finance director of GEC, and Denis Cassidy, former boss of Boddington's brewery, are concerned that the scandal may affect their own reputations.

Sir Terence said yesterday from his home in Whalton, Northumberland: "It's not an emergency meeting, but to discuss the interim business results which will be released on Tuesday. We will also be discussing the present state of affairs at Newcastle United. There will be a press release on Tuesday morning including a statement about the management."

The Independent understands further pressure for resignations will come from minority shareholders who are considering an action under the Companies Act to protect against possible damage to the company's share price.

The scandal began last week when the News of the World published details of conversations between Mr Hall, Mr Shepherd and an undercover reporter, claiming to be a businessman.

Yesterday the paper published further derogatory remarks made by the directors about Tony Banks, the sports minister. Mr Banks responded in kind: "They should go as fast as they can. They are a disgrace."