Lowe under pressure as tycoon buys Saints stake

The property tycoon Michael Wilde could be on the verge of ousting the Southampton chairman, Rupert Lowe, from his position at St Mary's. Wilde, the chairman of housing company Merlion Group plc, has purchased 2,542,737 shares - worth just under £1.4m - in Southampton Leisure Holdings plc, the parent company of the club.

The move puts serious pressure on the under-fire Lowe, who could face a shareholders' vote to remove him from the Saints board should Wilde decide to increase his holding, which now stands at just under 10 per cent.

Wilde, 53, confirmed his acquisition yesterday and stressed that he is acting alone after the purchase was linked with another south-coast businessman, Andrew Strode-Gibbons, who confirmed last week that a consortium had been formed with the intention of removing Lowe.

Alistair Baker, the chief executive of the Merlion Group, said: "This is an exciting time for Michael, the Merlion Group, and Southampton Football Club. Michael and I have worked closely for many years and I am sure successful times lie ahead for all involved, from supporters to shareholders. We are proud to be associated with the club in this way."

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