A bid by disgruntled shareholders at UK firm SkyePharma to supplant non-executive chairman Jerry Karabelas has failed.

At an Extraordinary General Meeting held yesterday, the rebels, centered around investment group North Atlantic Value, proposed Bob Thian as a director of the company, but were voted down.

The resolution to appoint Thian as a director was defeated by a majority of 28.5 million shares, said SkyePharma in a statement. 23% of shareholders voted for the resolution and 77% against it. In terms of votes cast the margin was less comfortable, with 53% of votes against and 47% in favour.

Karabelas said: "The EGM is now behind us. We can now get on with running the business for the benefit of all shareholders."

The dissidents had been angered by SkyePharma’s failure to find a buyer when it put itself up for sale last year and, in recent weeks, have accused the company’s management of being wasteful in its spending, self-serving and failing to make the most of its assets. They have been particularly upset by the lack of a licensing partner for Flutiform (formoterol plus fluticasone), a combination drug for asthma which has been tipped as a potential $1 billion product.

Karabelas took over from founder Ian Gowrie-Smith in January, who stepped down amid mounting pressure, and moved swiftly to appoint new candidates as chief executive and head of finance, in defiance of the rebels’ wishes.

Under Karabelas, SkyePharma now intends to concentrate on its oral and pulmonary drug delivery businesses, and try to find a buyer for San Diego-based injectables unit, which has two marketed products - DepoCyt (cytarabine) for lymphomatous meningitis and the painkiller DepoDur (morphine), as well as a pipeline headed by long-acting local anaesthetic Depobupivacaine.