Jeremy Peace is bracing himself for a costly legal battle as a group of West Bromwich Albion shareholders prepare to serve an interim injunction against his share consolidation scheme.
The chairman was slow-capped and heckled at Thursday's annual meeting for refusing to field questions from the floor, answering only those submitted in writing. His stance angered shareholders but his scheme was passed, by 56,452 votes to 14,665.
Described as a housekeeping exercise to tidy-up the share structure, ten current shares will effectively become one new share. Anyone holding a single share must spend £720 on another nine to bring their stake up to ten or put their existing stake up for tender. That process must be completed before November 21 after which Peace can buy their stake for £80 per share.
But a shareholders’ group, led by Birmingham solicitor David Billing and backed by West Midlands-based businessmen, is set to launch a legal challenge. They will hold talks in the next few days with a view to launching an interim injunction, at a cost of about £25,000. This is expected to lead to a High Court hearing which could cost in excess of six figures for both parties.
Billing’s submitted question was addressed but he was prevented from raising further points which angered shareholders. He said later: “Jeremy Peace is looking after his own interests, nobody else’s. We don’t want control of the club but he is trying to build up his own stake for his own gain which is wrong.
“We will have a meeting in the next few days and are likely to serve proceedings in the form on an injunction. A number of wealthy industrialists are willing to back us over this. We feel 9,075 shares, which Peace acquired, are invalid because an independent valuation wasn’t made which makes it unfairly prejudicial. People who invest into shares shouldn’t be expected to pay more just to keep their stake or face losing it for a value we feel is a lot less than it should be. We wanted a private meeting with the Board because we didn’t want to wash our dirty linen in public.”
Peace, vowing to defend any legal action and rejecting claims of handling the meeting unfairly, said: “People had seven days to submit their questions - this meeting was conducted as it has been every year. As for the share consolidation, we wanted to do the right thing by deferring it for a 12-month period. Those who own shares and need to round up can now either tender those out or those who wish to buy other people’s shares to boost their own stake have until November 21 to do so. We feel this is in the best interests of the club and will ensure that we carry this through.”