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Simon Duffy, World Online
"Nina made the right decision"
 real 28k

Thursday, 13 April, 2000, 20:07 GMT 21:07 UK
World Online boss quits
World Online homepage
World Online has been making its own headlines
The under-fire boss of European internet service provider World Online has quit.

The Dutch company, whose share price has plummeted below its flotation level, said Nina Brink had quit as chairwoman and from the firm's management board.

A statement from the company said the controversial boss took the decision "in the interests of the company".

She was to remain an advisor to the supervisory board, active in strategic and business developments.

The resignation follows the news of a pending lawsuit against the company after its flopped float and the disclosure that Ms Brink had sold shares prior to the offering.

She has been barraged with criticism since its flotation because of her failure to disclose details of her sharedealing.

Two third fall

World Online, which operates in 17 European countries, cashed in on the internet share boom at its float which was 30 times oversubscribed.

But as with the UK's lastminute.com and other high-profile recent floats, the stock has lost value, in its case nearly two-thirds since its 17 March listing at 43 euros.

Investors bailed out after the news broke that Ms Brink sold most of her 6.35% stake - or 15 million shares - for about 6 euros per share before the float.

The shares were sold to three separate entities, in a move which was described in the prospectus as being "transferred".

The resignation statement came shortly after private shareholders lobby VEB revealed it had filed a claim for damages with World Online and banks ABN AMRO and Goldman Sachs, lead managers for the public offering.

Under Dutch law, claiming compensation from a firm is the first necessary step in any court action for damages.

Investors' big losses

Separately, a Dutch law firm said it would file a criminal lawsuit with the Amsterdam court against World Online, Ms Brink and the banks that managed the flotation.

Lawyers Gerard Spong and Oscar Hammerstein said the prospectus did not meet standards that were required by law.

VEB director Peter-Paul de Vries said World Online's offer prospectus had been unclear and had given "incorrect, incomplete and unclear information".

Mr De Vries said investors had lost about 3.5 billion to four billion guilders ($1.5-1.7 billion) in the two weeks after World Online's flotation.

Simon Duffy, vice-chairman, will take over her duties.

Analyst Bert Siebrand at SNS Securities said the departure may end the unhappy early life as a listed company for World Online.

"I hope that through the resignation we can close this sad affair. This is a first step towards a recovery of investor confidence in World Online," he said.

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See also:

15 Mar 00 | Business
Floating out of favour?
30 Mar 00 | Business
European internet fever cools
31 Mar 00 | Business
Germany 'to cut' ISP float price
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