Stagecoach founders beat capital gains tax

Brian Souter and his sister Ann Gloag, who co-founded Stagecoach, the bus and train operator, have become the latest business figures to save millions of pounds by transferring or selling shares ahead of this weekend’s changes to capital gains tax.

The siblings are transferring 33m shares of Perth-based Stagecoach into two discretionary trusts – of which they and members of their families are beneficiaries.

In addition, Ms Gloag is also selling 500,000 shares in Stagecoach to a trust in the name of David McLeary, her husband.

The shares, which equate to a 4.7 per cent stake in Stagecoach and a fifth of the siblings’ combined shareholding, are worth about £82.4m at current market prices.

The reshuffle comes hard on the heels of similar moves by Lord Sainsbury, Sir Ken Morrison and Clara Furse of the London Stock Exchange in the past few days. Others who sold or transferred shares Wednesday include directors at Ted Baker and Jane Palmer, wife of Andrew Palmer, finance director at Legal & General. Mrs Palmer sold 929,474 L&G’s shares at 133p a share.

Stagecoach declined to comment on whether Wednesday’s shares sale and transfer were made to sidestep the impending rise in the CGT rate from a minimum of 10 to 18 per cent.

“The transactions are being done for personal tax planning reasons,” said the company and declined to be more specific.

The deal is due to be completed as late as January 2010. But tax advisers said that by agreeing to the contract now, Mr Souter and Ms Gloag would avoid paying CGT at the higher rate. Matt Coward, senior tax adviser at Blick Rothenberg, a professional services firm, said: “The most important thing is that the unconditional contract triggers the tax at 10 per cent.”

Mr Souter and Ms Gloag started Stagecoach with two second-hand buses in 1980. A devout Christian, Mr Souter caused consternation to the devolved Scottish assembly when he donated £500,000 to the campaign against its repeal of the country’s equivalent of Clause 28, the law that banned the “promotion” of homosexuality by councils and schools.

Ms Gloag, who stepped down as a Stagecoach executive director in 2000 but remains a non-executive, devotes a lot of her time to charity work. She put £4m towards the conversion of the Africa Mercy, a former Danish ferry, into the world’s biggest non-military hospital ship.

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