From that May moment when The Grocer found out about the proposed merger between Nisa-Today's and independent retailer Costcutter, its biggest member, it was clear negotiations weren't going to go smoothly.

The Nisa Members Association was rapidly formed by certain Nisa-Today's members challenging the vision outlined by Dudley Ramsden, its then executive chairman, and Colin Graves, then Costcutter MD.

The group backing the merger insisted that pooling resources would cut costs and help Nisa-Today's resist the major supermarkets.

But the NMA objected to the lack of available details for members. It questioned how much they would benefit, given that Costcutter was already a Nisa-Today's member. It also expressed concern about the influence that Kaupthing, the Icelandic investment bank financing the deal, would have.

As the months passed, the NMA's frustration grew over Nisa-Today's reluctance to reveal the deal's terms until completion of due diligence. Unsubstantiated rumours and personal accusations were flung around.

Finally, three members of the NMA complained to the Office of Fair Trading about alleged cartel activity between Nisa-Today's and Costcutter, scuppering the deal. It was claimed that members were discouraged from quitting one to join the other. Kaupthing slapped further conditions on its financing and the Nisa-Today's board pulled out.

Members were ultimately denied a democratic vote on the exact terms of the deal and some, even within the Association, blamed the NMA.

In the wake of the merger's collapse, Ramsden retired from the board, conceding that there would have been difficulties even if the deal had gone through. Meanwhile, the OFT's investigation into cartel allegations continues.