INTERNATIONAL NEWS: Chadlington makes play to take control of Huntsworth

LONDON: Following an attempt by rebel shareholders to oust its board, the fate of PR and marketing services group Huntsworth will be determined within a month.

LONDON: Following an attempt by rebel shareholders to oust its board, the fate of PR and marketing services group Huntsworth will be determined within a month.

LONDON: Following an attempt by rebel shareholders to oust its

board, the fate of PR and marketing services group Huntsworth will be

determined within a month.



Shandwick founder Lord Chadlington, in concert with former Halifax

chairman Jon Foulds and two other investors, recently called for an

emergency general meeting in a bid to assume control of the ailing

group. Huntsworth’s revenue slumped from more than dollars 85.5 million

10 years ago to just over dollars 30 million last year. Shareholders,

who have seen the share price drop from over pounds 200 in 1990 to

pounds 45 last week, have not been paid a dividend since 1991.



The PR arm of Huntsworth - Holmes & Marchant - also underperformed last

year, with fee growth of just 1% against an industrywide 14%

average.



Huntsworth’s management, however, is not prepared to give up, having

repaid almost dollars 15 million in debt since the recession of the

early 1990s.



The board has until August 2 to announce the date of the emergency

general meeting. Chadlington’s group has timed its moves to maximize

the number of private shareholders on holiday during the summer months,

which will give their 30% voting bloc added strength.



A spokesman for Huntsworth confirmed that the emergency general meeting

would take place by the end of August, the last time at which it can be

held under stock exchange rules. In the meantime, Huntsworth is trying

to find a buyer - although any deal would have to include Chadlington’s

equity, and it is unlikely he will sell unless given a high premium on

the current deflated share price.



’We are trying to sound a conciliatory note,’ said a source close to

the Huntsworth board. ’In an ideal world, (Chadlington’s) party would

come to some accommodation with the management that focuses on the

interests of all shareholders.’



A source close to Chadlington said the attempt to sell the firm shows

the lack of confidence that the existing management team, led by CEO

John Holmes, has in the company’s future. Chadlington’s plan includes

his installation as interim CEO, with Foulds as chairman and a complete

board overhaul. Group operating costs will likely be slashed as well.



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