The opening salvo in the final battle for Marks & Spencer was fired as Philip Green tabled a£9.1 billion proposal, backed by the retailer's biggest shareholder.
Green's 400p-a-share cash offer has the support of US fund manager Brandes Investment Partners, which owns 11.7 per cent of the retailer. A revised cash and share alternative was also offered.
Green said: 'We keep getting messed about by M&S's board. I decided: this is the end.' He added: 'This is not a negotiating position. This is final.'
Shortly after hearing the news, M&S chief executive Stuart Rose said: 'I'm an hour and a half into a new situation. I can't tell you anything.'
The M&S board was locked in a crisis meeting as Retail Week went to press, but analysts said directors would have to take the pitch seriously.
'We're at the end game. I think he (Rose) is going to find it difficult to defend at 400p,' said CSFB analyst Tony Shiret.
Until now, Green's Revival Acquisitions has only tabled cash and equity share proposals for M&S, the second indicating a potential offer of 370p.
Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs were hard at work courting other shareholders with sizeable stakes in M&S. Any bid would need to win over the 20 per cent of the investor base comprising private shareholders, many of whom are former employees of the company. 'The 20 per cent are crucial in this,' admitted a spokesman for Green.
The spokesman said Revival Acquisitions' advisers were poised to begin due diligence immediately, assuming the M&S board gave the green light.
Green has a list of 14 questions regarding the financial health of M&S that he says need to be answered.
- M&S Week Six: page 3.