M&B steps up board battle

PUBS group Mitchells &amp; Butlers yesterday ramped up its row with its major shareholder, billionaire investor Joe Lewis, removing his representatives from the board and appointing a new chairman in defiance of his wishes.<br /><br />Richard McGuire and Douglas McMahon, representatives of Lewis&rsquo;s investment vehicle, Piedmont, have been told by M&amp;B to step down.<br /><br />Simon Laffin, a former finance director at Safeway and M&amp;B&rsquo;s senior independent director, has been appointed chairman with immediate effect to replace Drummond Hall, who is retiring.<br /><br />The move came after M&amp;B said it would appeal to the Takeover Panel to rule on whether rebel shareholders were attempting to gain control of the group. M&amp;B also said yesterday it wants two further non-executive directors, Denis Jackson, previously a Citigroup banker, and Ray MacSharry, the former Irish finance minister, to leave.<br /><br />M&amp;B claims Piedmont, which owns 23 per cent of M&amp;B, blocked three candidates that had been lined up for the chairmanship and has accused a number of shareholders of advancing their own interests at the expense of others.<br /><br />Hall said yesterday: &ldquo;Simon was one of the shortlisted candidates for the chairmanship and I am delighted that he is taking over, confident that he will work tirelessly for all our shareholders.&rdquo;<br /><br />&bull; Alphameric, the firm that beams live racing footage to bookmakers&rsquo; shops, refused to confirm or deny reports that Lewis is on the verge of a takeover bid. He owns a 29.9 per cent stake and there have been suggestions he could seize full control.