Wyevale chair relents after Laxey redoubles its assault

Williams to step down before next Wyevale AGM

David Williams, chairman of Wyevale Garden Centres, has been forced out by rebel shareholder Laxey Partners after a six-month power struggle. He will leave before Wyevale’s April AGM, whatever the outcome of an extraordinary general meeting called by Laxey for 22 December. He offered to resign after giving up the fight to keep the hedge fund from taking over the chain. Laxey has continued to call for shareholders to give its nominee, Robert Ware — a former director of property company MEPC — executive chairmanship of the company. Jon Aarons, Wyevale representative, said Laxey, after accepting Williams’ offer to go, changed its mind because it wanted Ware to effectively take over “with responsibilities to hire and fire” immediately, before Williams wanted to leave in the new year. Aarons said Wyevale’s board is angry because Laxey has resisted reaching ownership of the 29.9 per cent of shares that would mean they would have to make an offer for the company. This means shareholders are missing out on the money 28 per cent shareholder Laxey would have to pay for Wyevale, while having to pay for what Wyevale regards as an unnecessary EGM. Hedge fund Millennium Partners backs Laxey and their combined shares total 39 per cent — enough to take control. Aarons said: “The board’s feeling is they should be making an offer.” Williams said: “This is an intolerable situation for our shareholders and everyone working hard to enhance Wyevale’s prospects.” Laxey director Colin Kingsnorth said: “Laxey continues to lack confidence in David Williams and urges Wyevale shareholders to vote in favour of the resolution for his removal and in favour of the appointment of Robert Ware as a director.”

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