Lehmann blocks Allied, slams directors

  • Wednesday 24 September 2003

The battle for Peter Lehmann Wines moved up a gear yesterday as the Swiss Hess group trumped a bid from rivals Allied Domecq – and Lehmann himself criticised three of his directors for backing Allied.

Peter Lehmann has made no secret of his preference for the privately-owned Hess group – which owns trout farms and health resorts – and his reluctance to sell his 10.5% stake in the eponymous Australian wine company to an international conglomerate of the size of Allied.

Allied owns 14.5% of PLW, and had offered shareholders AUS$3.50 a share, upping it in the summer to AUS$3.85. Yesterday Hess bettered that by offering the same, with a 5.5 cent dividend promise.

And this morning the Australian Financial Review quotes Lehmann as saying he is 'disgusted' with directors Richard England, Neil Lister and Harold Tilley for recommending Allied's bid.

'They have to live with what they have done - I would ignore any of their recommendations,' Mr Lehmann said, according to the AFR. He added he hoped they would 'withdraw with dignity' from negotiations.

'I do not anticipate them being associated in that capacity for PLW for very long - I am just disgusted with the three independent directors in the way they have behaved in this manner.'

Lehmann is outspoken in his opposition to Allied's taking over the company, and is determined to thwart the drinks giant, which owns New Zealand's Montana, makes Courvoisier cognac, Ballantine's scotch, Sauza tequila, Beefeater gin and Kahlua liqueur, and owns rights to some of the biggest names in the drinks world, by holding onto his stake.

'(Allied) are still working on the theory I am going to sell, that sooner or later they will find a price where I sell out but I ain't selling more shares than the ones I am selling…to Hess,' he said, referring to the 5.4% he has pledged to the Swiss company.

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