Portman branded a Judas

A protest group set up to mobilise Portman’s members against its proposed merger with Nationwide has branded the society a Judas for agreeing to the sale.

Calling themselves Members Against The Takeover, the group recently placed an advert in the Daily Mail calling on members to “vote no to the proposed Nationwide takeover of Portman”.

It also directs members to its website, portmanprotest.com, where they can download a letter to Martin Stanley, chief executive of the Competition Commission, registering an objection to the proposal.

The website includes a poster for Portman staff to use, which states: “The potential takeover of Portman by Nationwide is not in the interests of the members or staff of the society, or the building society movement as a whole. Portman must remain true to its heritage and stay fully independent.”

The website features two cartoon strips illustrating its feelings about the merger.

In one, Nationwide chief executive Philip Williamson is pictured imagining writing off building societies as “things of the past” and suggests killing off Portman to create a huge structure “a bit like the Millennium Dome”. Portman’s chief executive Robert Sharpe asks: “But isn’t that large and completely empty of purpose?” to which Williamson responds with glee: “Yes, but members will never notice once they get their cheques.”

In the other, two small boys compare the merger to biblical stories. One says his dad is for the merger because “like the Bible says, you always have to make the most of yourself.” The other quips his mum thinks its like the Bible too – the story of Judas.

Paul Howard, director of intermediary sales at Portman and The Mortgage Works, says: “We are holding member meetings with Sharpe in attendance so people can have their say, and we would be delighted to meet the people behind portmanprotest.com.”

Howard says this protest isn’t a sign that the vote concerning the merger will be a resounding no.

He adds: “Some people will be sad to see the independence of Portman go, hence the need for a vote. But the vast majority will be happy to take the money and still be members of a mutual.”

A spokesman for Nationwide says it believes the merger is good news for members of both societies but declined to comment further about the protest group.

An anonymous member of Members Against The Takeover says: “This is a battle that can be won.”