Three shareholders who have sued the management of Equitable General Corp. refused to join in a standing ovation for the company's chairman, but that was the closest thing to a confrontation at yesterday's annual stockholders meeting.
There were few comments from stockholders either about the lawsuit or about two rival bids to take over the McLean Holding company that owns Equitable General Life Insurance Co.
Corporate executives said they still are studying the latest acquisition offer, made last Friday by Liberty National Life Insurance Co. of Birmingham, Ala.
Liberty National offered $45 a share for the stock, topping a $40-a-share offer made a week earlier by Great Southern Corp. of Houston. Equitable General had agreed to accept the offer and merge with Great Southern.
Executives of Equitable General spent nearly an hour responding to a series of critical questions that were mailed to stockholders before the meeting by three shareholders, Curtis Steuart, Marshall Garrett and Andrew Altman.
Reciting the history of the company for the last five years, general counsel F. Elwood Davis said, "We think the best answer to all the questions is to observe what Equitable General is doing.
The critics had complained about what the company was doing, noting that Equitable General had reorganized in 1974 so it could expand by making acquisitions, but so far has made none.
Equitable General executives cited an $8.5 million capital gain on sale of the former headquarters in Washington, an increase in earnings per share from $1.24 in 1969 to $3.12 last year, and a 22.4 percent growth in dividends in the past five years.
Attorney Robert Smith, who with his clients refused to join in the ovation for Chairman Charles Phillips, declined to comment on the dispute. A lawsuit accusing Phillips and other executives of mismanagement is pending in Fairfax County.