28 June 2000

Publishing group Highbury House Communications has finalised the £59 million acquisition of Columbus Group, an accident-prone rival that has twice been the target of DTI probes during the past year, and whose directors have been interrogated over their share dealings.

Columbus’s high profile non-executive deputy chairman, Nigel Wray, who disposed of £2.6m-worth of the group's shares during a DTI investigation and just weeks before a profits warning, has not been invited to join the Highbury board. Although, according to a Wray spoke: "Nigel did not feel it was appropriate to continue."

Former Columbus group managing director Jeremy Isaac, whose days in the driving seat of Columbus subsidiary Chartsearch were not unmarked by controversy, becomes chief executive of Highbury, while Columbus chairman Nigel Barklem moves to non-executive deputy chairman of the combined group.

Columbus’s publishing concerns, including its consumer competitions and mail order arm, will be absorbed into Highbury. The latter businesses were subject to a DTI inquiry last year and, although no criminal proceedings were brought, several businesses within the division ceased to trade.

The deal, along with Columbus's results, was expected two weeks ago. A spoke attributed the announcement's delay to “unforeseen due diligence”.

News source: The Times (London)