Mitchells & Butlers chairman Simon Laffin has likened the ongoing spat between the company's board and its major shareholders to "a John Grisham novel".
Laffin, who has a background at Mars and was drafted in as a new director in the face of the Northern Rock collapse, told the Observer newspaper, "It has got billionaire tax exiles, faraway places, horseracing connections and a glamorous location. And those forces are ranged against me and a plucky board in Birmingham.
Laffin stepped up to become M&B's chairman after Piedmont, the investment vehicle owned by Bahamas-based billionaire Joe Lewis, blocked the appointment first of Archie Norman and then former Hamleys boss Simon Burke last year.
Laffin's appointment saw the removal of several directors linked to Lewis, and the company referred the matter to the Takeover Panel amid fears that shareholders were acting in concert to take over the business without making a bid. However the Takeover Panel ruled that there was no evidence that Piedmont and Elpida, owned by Irish tycoons JP McManus and John Magnier, acted in concert.
The article also reported that Laffin has regularly had his home and offices in London and Birmingham swept for listening devices, although nothing has been found.
Lewis is understood to have a series of complaints about the current management of M&B, accusing it of wasting money on central overheads and doubling the pensions of departing directors.
But Laffin described the accusations as "complete nonsense" and "crap".
By Neil Gerrard
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