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M&B rebel fights corner as row grows

THE largest shareholder in pubs group Mitchells &amp; Butlers will meet with the Takeover Panel today as the furore grows over the company&rsquo;s decision to oust four directors.<br /><br />Piedmont, which owns 23 per cent of M&amp;B on behalf of billionaire Joe Lewis, wants to put its side of the story after its representatives Richard McGuire and Douglas McMahon were removed from the board last week.<br /><br />M&amp;B accused the pair of vetoing candidates for a new chairman and demanding the resignation of Simon Laffin, who was appointed chairman from senior independent director.<br /><br />Also ejected were Ray MacSharry and Denis Jackson, thought to represent the Irish racehorse tycoons John Magnier and JP McManus.<br /><br />M&amp;B, which owns the Harvester and All Bar One chains, called on the Takeover Panel to assess whether rebel shareholders were trying to gain control of the company.<br /><br />The situation came to a head after the four directors initially refused to sign off M&amp;B&rsquo;s annual accounts over an argument about the value of the company&rsquo;s property estate. McGuire and McMahon also strongly opposed M&amp;B&rsquo;s remuneration plans for its executives, described as &ldquo;excessive&rdquo;.<br />A spokesman for Piedmont said: &ldquo;We were taking on the board as an engaged shareholder, acting in the interests of all shareholders.&rdquo;<br />Piedmont will meet with other shareholders this week to raise concerns about a lack of transparency.<br /><br />Lewis was last week reported to have tried to block the appointment of retail stalwart Archie Norman &ndash; nominee as chairman of ITV &ndash; as chairman of M&amp;B.