It takes the English, but what could be more odd than to have the genteel atmosphere of the Chelsea Flower show rocked by allegations of defamation and misdeeds involving a multi-billion dollar takeover?

Goldman Sachs yesterday refused to apologise to Stuart Rose, the Marks & Spencer chief executive who had accused the investment bank of “promoting an untruth to damage my reputation” and to further its interests as a financial backer of Philip Green.
The row over Mr Rose’s remarks allegedly overheard at the Chelsea Flower Show may now only be resolved as part of the Financial Services Authority’s inquiry into share dealings in M&S before Mr Green’s £8bn-plus bid. As the tension between the camps escalated further last night, M&S appeared to have approached consultants to improve its security. It is thought the firm is concerned that Mr Rose’s mobile phone records may be in somebody else’s hands.

The retailer would only say: “We were concerned about our security and approached two firms – Kroll and Control Risks – and were told neither of them were free to act. They say they have a conflict.”

Mr Rose set a deadline of 5pm yesterday for Goldman Sachs to provide a written retraction of allegations that he had told Bradford & Bingley finance director Rosemary Thorne that he would be chairman of Mr Green’s bid vehicle.

The conversation is said to have taken place when the pair spoke at Chelsea on May 24, three days before Mr Green went public with his proposal and a week before Mr Rose was appointed chief executive of M&S.

Yesterday’s deadline passed without an apology or retraction from Goldman Sachs, despite Mr Rose’s angry letter to Peter Sutherland, the bank’s head of European business.

It is thought Goldman plans instead to send a “brush off” reply, saying merely it will comply with the FSA inquiry.

That will be interpreted as Goldman sticking to its story. Senior figures at the bank are understood to be confident that Ms Thorne told them unambiguously on four occasions of Mr Rose’s remarks.

Ms Thorne, who joined B&B from Sainsbury’s as part of the team to lead its stock market flotation, is thought to be furious to find herself at the cen tre of the bitter row. There is already intense speculation that the former building society will axe Goldman as its financial adviser.