Takeover row deepens as Goshawk chairman challenges Phoenix to bid for company

The bitter rift between Goshawk and Phoenix Asset Management reached new heights this week, with Goshawk chairman Paul Spencer telling Phoenix to "put up or shut up".

Phoenix chairman Sir Peter Thompson had blasted the Goshawk board at the insurer's AGM for paying directors some of the highest bonuses in the market, despite losses of £8.8m last year.

Thompson is now urging shareholders to replace the Goshawk board in its entirety in order to make way for himself and Phoenix chief executive Gary Channon to take the reins.

But Spencer hit back claiming Phoenix, which currently owns 28.9% of Goshawk, is simply looking to take control of the business without paying a premium.

He said: "If it wants to buy the company and become the only shareholder we would be delighted. But it is proposing to take control itself without adding any value for shareholders."

At the AGM it was revealed that the majority of shareholders did not approve the board's 2004 remuneration package, which included a £100,000 personal bonus for Spencer.

Phoenix will now attempt to drum up support for its proposed takeover and hold an emergency general meeting over the next few weeks.

But shareholders overwhelmingly voted to re-elect non-executive chairmen Simon Miller and George Robb, who both sit on Goshawk's remuneration board, suggesting widespread support for the existing management team.