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Aukett management in turmoil following shareholders' rebellion

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The UK's best-known listed practice, Aukett, is in disarray following a mutiny by a group of the firm's investors and former directors at last week's AGM. The rebels want to see two of the company's current management team removed from the board and a return of the firm's focus towards European expansion.

The rebellion - led by minority shareholders Imagina Management from Madrid and Brusselsbased Art & Build - is currently focusing its efforts on deselecting two senior board members.

They are refusing to support Ian Mavor in his role as Aukett chairman and Stuart McLarty as marketing director, and are instead campaigning for their replacement with Imagina's Jose Luis Ripoll and former chairman Gerry Deighton.

Two other high-profile former directors, who have remained shareholders, have also backed the move. Representatives of former chairman Andrew Lett and managing director John Thake told the AGM that they too would use their votes in support of Deighton, who is actively campaigning for the rebel faction.

A source close to the company has warned that if the infighting continues at an Extraordinary General Meeting scheduled for the end of this month, the management will consider taking the listed company back into private hands.

The controversy is set against an ongoing row among Aukett's shareholders and management over the focus of the company. Foreign shareholders have become dismayed with the company's recent policy of closing European offices and shifting the focus back to the UK.

But Mavor defended the recent strategy, pointing to the company's results in 2002, which showed an end to loss-making and a return to profit. 'This is very unpleasant and very frustrating after all we have done to turn the company around, ' he told the AJ.

'This company was not in a good financial state when we took it over and we have made some serious progress.We have reviewed the whole situation and taken some difficult decisions. This year we have made a small profit, which represents a big improvement on the £1.6 million loss we made two years ago, ' he added.

Andrew Lett refused to comment on the debate, except to say that he is attempting to distance himself from the company.

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