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Scottish independence-supporting bus tycoons sell off Stagecoach stake

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Sir Brian Souter
Sir Brian Souter

The Scottish siblings who made hundreds of millions of pounds capitalising on Margaret Thatcher’s privatisation of the bus market are to bow out of the sector after more than four decades in business.

Sir Brian Souter and Dame Ann Gloag, who launched Stagecoach in 1980 by running second-hand buses between Scotland and London, have begun the sell-off of their 27.1pc stake in the FTSE 250 group.

The pair, who grew up on a council estate in Perth, intend to reduce their combined shareholding to 5pc over the next 10 years.

Stagecoach shares fell more than 7pc as they offloaded a 2.5pc stake on Wednesday.

Sir Brian became a part-time bus conductor aged 18, joining his father at Alexanders Bus Company. He split his time working with studying at school and university.

Brian Souter (left), his sister Ann and their uncle, Fraser McColl, in front of the company's first double-decker coach
Brian Souter (left), his sister Ann and their uncle, Fraser McColl, in front of the company's first double-decker coach

The businessman has been the public face of Stagecoach, sparking controversy over his evangelical Christian beliefs. He funded a campaign 20 years ago to resist the repealing of laws banning discussion of gay rights in schools.

The move has continued to dog the company, with the Turner Prize criticised in 2019 for accepting Stagecoach as a sponsor.

Sir Brian was a large donor to the SNP under Alex Salmond, but is said to have stopped donating to the party since Nicola Sturgeon took over as leader in 2014.

Sir Brian stepped down as Stagecoach chairman two years ago, but remained on the board. Dame Ann retired completely at the same time.

On Wednesday, Sir Brian said: “My sister, Dame Ann Gloag, and I are reducing our families’ shareholdings in Stagecoach as part of a 10-year plan to rebalance our families’ investment portfolios. We remain significant long-term shareholders in Stagecoach and remain supportive of the company’s strategy and management team.

“I look forward to supporting the company as we recover from the impact of Covid-19 and play our part in helping the Government meet its objectives to grow bus patronage and tackle climate change in the years ahead.”

A spokesman for Stagecoach said: "For many years, Sir Brian Souter and Dame Ann Gloag have had a significant and diverse portfolio of investments and charitable interests, which they have balanced over time. Our co-founders, along with our other major investors, remain significant long-term shareholders in the company and supportive of our strategy and management team."

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