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Tuesday, January 5, 1999 Published at 13:09 GMT

Business: The Company File

Coventry rebuffs carbetbagger

The Coventry insists it wants to remain a building society

A building society has thrown out a demand that it should convert to a bank and pay windfalls to members.

Former royal butler Michael Hardern also sought to put himself up for election to the board of the Coventry Building Society but the board said that under their rules he had failed to gain sufficient support from members for both moves.

[ image: The building societies say mutuality means better rates for members]
The building societies say mutuality means better rates for members
It emerged over the weekend that Mr Hardern was attempting to stand for the board of six other building societies on a conversion ticket.

The Bradford and Bingley has received a similar resolution from Stephen Major, a quantity surveyor from Co Antrim.

Martin Ritchley, chief executive of the Coventry said: "We have repeatedly made it abundantly clear that we have no intention of changing from being a building society to become a bank.

"This development has in no way affected the board's view that the long term interest of Coventry members, present and future, are best served by our remaining a building society."

Mutual friction

The other six mutuals targeted by Mr Hardern for conversion are the Britannia, the Chelsea, Portman, Skipton and Yorkshire building societies.

[ image: Carpetbaggers want to cash in on possible windfall payments]
Carpetbaggers want to cash in on possible windfall payments
These societies said they were currently validating Mr Hardern's nomination to stand as a board director and his resolution to push through a conversion vote.

Mr Hardern failed in his bid to get the Nationwide Building Society to convert to a bank over the summer.

Several major building societies have converted over the past few years, paying out windfalls.

The remainder have had to counter bids by carpetbaggers to join them simply to cash in on any payouts.

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