James Barnes, chief executive of garden centre operator Dobbies, has accused Sir Tom Hunter of trying to scupper Tesco’s £156m takeover of the chain ‘for his own commercial ends rather than for the benefit of our shareholders’.
He warned that if the Tesco bid fails, the outlook for Dobbies’ investors is ‘pretty gruesome’ with two competing stakeholders on the share register.
Hunter, who owns rival garden centre chains Wyevale and Blooms of Bressingham, had claimed that the £15-a-share Tesco offer undervalues Dobbies and is not in the best interests of its shareholders.
With Tesco needing the backing of 50% of Dobbies shares, and currently only having the support of 32%, Hunter’s stake-building could help prevent Tesco from winning control of Dobbies.
Barnes questioned whether there was a conflict of interest between Hunter’s status as a significant Dobbies shareholder and his role as a key competitor.
But a spokesman for Hunter’s investment vehicle, West Coast Capital, rejected the suggestion that he would try to harm the business.
‘We’re a major shareholder in Dobbies and we want to see maximum value in the business,’ he said. ‘We don’t invest in businesses not to see them grow.’