EVER controversial Tony Clegg yesterday severed his links with the

Mountleigh property group when he disclosed he had sold his 14.6% stake

at 200p a share. The market had been thrown into confusion when

Mountleigh intimated first thing in the morning that it was to make an

announcement later in the day that would not involve a general offer for

its shares.

Initial market reaction was to push the shares ahead from the

overnight 138p, up 9p, to a spread of 150p-160p. Much later, Mountleigh

said that Mr Clegg had sold his shares which, together with the disposal

of his options to acquire an additional 7.9% or 16.7 million shares at

180p a share, he would receive a total of #70.4m from American property

tycoons Nelson Peltz and John May who end up controlling 22.5%.

Mountleigh shares then jumped 35p to 174p despite the two purchasers

saying they have no intention of making a bid in current circumstances

subject to various caveats such as a third party acquiring a holding of

10% or more. They ended 26p higher at 164p.

There seems no good reason as to why the shares were not suspended at

the company's request until the second announcement was made. The Stock

Exchange said that temporary suspensions are made after discussion with

the company. So given the vagueness of the Mountleigh statement which

could only leave the market prey to rumour, it should have used its

powers much more effectively.

Mr Clegg said that he is standing down as chairman and chief executive

because although he has made a good recovery from the serious illness of

12 months ago he nonetheless feels acutely aware of the tremendous

demands placed upon the chief executive.

He is being succeeded by Mr Peltz who is probably best known for

building up and then selling the Triangle Industries packaging group.

Gerry Tsai, who heads up Primerica Corporation and was the most

redoubtable of the Wall Street ''gun slingers'' in the 1960s, also joins

the board while Sir Ian MacGregor remains the incumbent deputy chairman.

Mountleigh has had a rough ride in the last couple of years as a

result of its hefty #153m investment in the Galerias Preciados

department store group in Spain. But early doubts appear to have been

dispelled with Galerias turning from losses into operating profits of

#20m. There had been a general expectation that Mr Clegg would try to

float off Gallerias next year at anything up to #400m although that may

well be in abeyance while the new board reconsider their options.