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Football: Peace: I don't want to sell-up; Albion chief denies club being groomed for deal.

Byline: By Chris Lepkowski OUR MAN AT ALBION

JEREMY Peace has refuted renewed claims that he is looking to sell Albion.

A recent acquisition of new shares took the Albion chairman's stake in the club to more than 50 per cent, which, under the code of the Takeover Panel, means he has to offer to buy the remaining stake from shareholders at pounds 80 per share.

As a result the WBA Independent Shareholders group (WBAIS) has released a statement raising concerns over a number of issues, not least claiming that Peace wants to eventually sell up.

Under the rules of the Takeover Panel, Peace is not permitted to comment or discuss any details of the share offer. But sources claim that the share offer is merely a method of 'tidying up' the club's current share structure in the light of Albion receiving letters and calls from the relatives of deceased shareholders who wish to cash in on the shares but are unable to do so.

The Birmingham Mail is also told that the purchase of those extra shares, which took Peace's stake to over 50 per cent, was timed to fall after the club's accounts had been issued to ensure all shareholders were fully up to date with the club's financial state before the share offer was made. Nevertheless, some shareholders remain sceptical, including the WBAIS. The group claim that Peace's sister transferred some of her shares to a company called Salic Inc, who then sold on shares to the Baggies chairman.

Dave Billing, spokesman for the group, said: "Preliminary investigations show that Mrs P Salters (Jeremy Peace's sister) transferred 880 of her holding of 890 shares to Salic Inc on 12 September. We believe Salic Inc then transferred their entire holding to JP on 17 September.

"We believe this to be supporting evidence that the transfer which triggered the Takeover Panel requirement for JP to make an offer for the remaining shares was based upon a tame transfer and it was a carefully planned or preordained transaction.

"With an increased shareholding JP has a better chance of gaining 75 per cent of votes necessary on the day at an EGM to eliminate holders of nine or fewer shares.

"The shareholders consider the transfer to be deliberately manipulated to lead to the offer, all part of a plan by JP designed to increase his shareholding - if possible at a reduced rate - therefore enabling him to negotiate terms with individual shareholders and clear out the small remaining shareholders.

"All of the above is evidence of a grooming of WBA for sale."

Sources insist there is no connection between Peace's sister and the sale of those shares from Salic, also claiming that the share offer will give those existing stakeholders who have fewer than 10 shares an opportunity to boost their own stake in the club."

CAPTION(S):

STANDING FIRM... Albion chairman Jeremy Peace.; TIDYING UP... Albion chairman Jeremy Peace.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Oct 2, 2007
Words:488
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