BRIERLEY Investments was yesterday believed to have tried to drive a wedge between the controlling family members of Gibbs Mew, the small brewer and pub operator based in Wiltshire that it is trying to take over.
Lloyds Merchant Bank, acting for Brierley, yesterday unsuccessfully telephoned the home of Honor Gibbs, wife of Peter Gibbs, the chairman. Mrs Gibbs owns 225,000 shares - 4 per cent of the company.
Brierley, one of New Zealand's largest companies, launched its pounds 11m, 200p-per-share bid on Tuesday. It owns 19.7 per cent of Gibbs. A spokesman for Brierley admitted: 'We did try to contact her but were unable to do so.' Mr Gibbs, who yesterday presided over the company's annual meeting, and his wife declined to comment.
Only two questions were fielded at the meeting. One asked whether any family members had been selling shares, to which the chairman replied: 'The family has been a net buyer of shares over the last year.'
Sources close to the company said that Lloyds' attempts to contact Mrs Gibbs were thwarted by Mr Gibbs answering the bank's phone call. Mr Gibbs, who was appointed to the board in 1948, holds 617,000 shares.
The Brierley spokesman declined to comment on the speculation about whether Brierley was trying to divide Mrs Gibbs' family loyalties.
However, he did say: 'It is normal practice during the course of a bid to talk to shareholders and explain the merits of our offer with the hope of obtaining irrevocable undertakings.'
The family's holdings, nearly 50 per cent of Gibbs, clearly form the key to the bid. The holdings include that of Roger Gibbs, the chairman's son and company secretary since 1973, who has 692,000 shares.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies