Belfast Telegraph

Stobart chairman left hanging as company delays AGM outcome

Shareholders have voted on whether to boot out chairman Ian Ferguson.

The fate Stobart’s chairman hangs in the balance after the company delayed the results of its shareholder vote on Friday.

At the company’s contentious annual general meeting (AGM), shareholders voted on whether to boot out chairman Ian Ferguson, who has been under pressure to leave the business from former chief executive Andrew Tinkler.

However, the board announced on Friday afternoon that it would not be publishing the outcome of the meeting because votes were still being counted.

If more than 50% of shareholders voted against Mr Ferguson, he will be ousted from the company.

Stobart’s finance chief resigned just hours before the highly-anticipated meeting in St Peter Port, Guernsey.

In a shock announcement in the morning, the London Southend Airport operator said Richard Laycock would not be putting himself up for election at the AGM, but would “continue to support the Stobart Group business”.

An executive search will be launched as soon as possible.

The firm has been locked in a battle with Mr Tinkler, who was sacked last month and was hit with a legal case for “breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty”.

It came after Mr Tinkler, former director Allan Jenkinson and a fund controlled by star investor Neil Woodfood began manoeuvring to install retail boss Philip Day as chairman of the firm, in place of incumbent Mr Ferguson.

Stobart’s new chief executive, Warwick Brady, said Mr Tinkler’s actions had threatened to “destabilise the company” and “severely impact” the firm’s ability to manage the business on a day-to-day basis and deliver on its strategy.

“This is against the interests of all our shareholders,” Mr Brady said.

Instead of listening to the concerns expressed by me and a number of other significant shareholders, Mr Ferguson and his supporters on the board chose to engage in a campaign of vilification, repeatedly trying to blacken my name A letter attributed to Andrew Tinkler

A letter addressed to shareholders on a Twitter account attributed to Mr Tinkler last week said he did not believe the Mr Ferguson was the “robust, independent chairman” needed to ensure the company “sticks to its agreed strategy and concentrates on delivering value to shareholders”.

“Instead of listening to the concerns expressed by me and a number of other significant shareholders, Mr Ferguson and his supporters on the board chose to engage in a campaign of vilification, repeatedly trying to blacken my name whilst claiming credit for the growth achieved and for the strategy which William Stobart and I played an integral part in developing alongside the company’s management team,” the letter said.

Mr Tinkler, who had previously been up for re-election as a director of the business at the company’s AGM before his sacking, had attempted to bring a court injunction against the company to allow shareholders to vote over his reinstatement as a director on Friday.

But his efforts were rejected by a Guernsey court ahead of the meeting.

As part of its pre-AGM market update, Stobart said its energy division had performed well, logging a 54% rise in tonnages year on year thanks to new contracts coming online.

Its infrastructure division meanwhile generated £25.5 million in cash following the successful sale and leaseback of properties and land at its Widnes site.

“Further non-operating asset disposals are being pursued,” the company said.

The disposals are part of a wider strategy meant to boost its dividend.

Stobart confirmed a 4.5p per share dividend would be paid out to shareholders on Friday, taking its total dividend for the year to 18p per share.

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