Work on Birmingham's Arena Central scheme - to include the 50-storey V Building tower - will not be hindered by an internal shares wrangle at housebuilding and construction firm Miller Group, it was claimed yesterday.
Miller is one of the partners which make up Arena Central Developments, a joint venture set up with Bridgehouse Capital, controlled by local entrepreneur Andy Ruhan. Irish firm Dandara is the development partner for the 175 metre-high tower.
Edinburgh-based Miller yesterday insisted that the project would go ahead as scheduled as it embarked on discussions with a group of family shareholders representing approximately 60 per cent of its share capital.
The shareholders, who are represented by James Miller - a former chairman of the company - want to divest some of their shares in a move to diversify their investment portfolio.
The family shareholders said they had hired advisers Ernst & Young to help look at options.
The shareholder group added it was in talks with a "discreet number of third parties".
Reports at the weekend suggested that might lead to a sale of the company, with tensions brewing between the group and Miller chief executive and fellow family member Keith Miller, who is not part of the majority shareholder group.
But that was emphatically denied yesterday by a spokeswoman, who said Miller was "not up for sale" and intended to remain independent. "It is not yet clear to the board how many of these shareholders actually wish to sell their shares or at what price," the company said in a statement. "The board is wholly committed to the independence of the company and fully backs Keith Miller and the management team."
It added: "Disposals of shares held by family members have in the past been dealt with through the medium of an internal share market' that was set up by the company some 10 years ago when James Miller was chairman.
"Around 20 per cent of the company's shares have been traded on the internal market over the past seven years.
"Discussions have taken place over a number of months with James Miller and Ernst & Young and the board has indicated that it would be prepared to consider buying back shares in Miller.
"The board will continue its discussions with James Miller and are confident that a mutually acceptable solution will be achieved in due course."
It is understood that the shareholders pushing for a sale are mainly second and third gene ration family members.
Keith Miller is the son of John Miller, who was one of three brothers that set the business up in Edinburgh 73 years ago. The group now employs around 2,000 people across the UK. Keith Miller's direct family, the company's directors and employees own over 36 per cent of the group. Currently there are over 280 employee shareholders.
Arena Central Developments, which has already negotiated a 250-year ground lease on the 2.3 million sq ft site, bordered by Suffolk Street Queensway, Broad Street, Bridge Street and Holliday Street, hopes to see construction work start next spring. Enabling works have already started following the grant of the new ground lease.