Independent shareholders topple board of pub group

THE main independent shareholders of British pub group Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) – specifically British financier Joe Lewis and Irish businessmen John Magnier and JP McManus – have succeeded in overthrowing the group’s board after months of hostility.

Mr Lewis’ investment vehicle, Piedmont recently proposed four new independent board members and, on Wednesday this week, Elpida – the vehicle through which the two Irish financiers own a 17.6% stake – said it would also be voting against the re-election of the then current board at the group’s annual general meeting, which was held in Birmingham yesterday.

Although most of M&B’s institutional investors voted in favour of the board, their re-election was blocked given that the combined stakeholding in the group of Piedmont and Elpida tops the 40% mark.

Prior to yesterday’s vote, Edward Banks – on behalf of Elpida – told the board that Mr Magnier and Mr McManus are not looking to seize control of the company, but simply want it to be managed better.

In a detailed speech, Mr Banks added: “The company has excellent assets – in our view, it has the premier pub estate in Britain – and we believe its future prospects should be very good. However, we believe the shareholders of this company have been let down by its leadership.”

Earlier this week, Elpida expressed its lack of confidence in acting chairman Simon Laffin. Mr Laffin’s election as full chairman was voted against by 66% of yesterday’s ballot. Consequently, John Lovering has been appointed M&B chairman, while the only new board member of note to Irish audiences is Simon Burke, the former head of toy retailer Hamley’s and the current chief executive of Superquinn.

Recent hostilities between M&B shareholders (specifically Mr Lewis’s Piedmont) and the old board surrounded allegations that major shareholders were trying to seize control of the group, something which was denied and ruled against by Britain’s Takeover Panel.

M&B’s new board said it will conduct a thorough review of the business. In a statement after the AGM, it added: “The board will put recent history behind us and move forward committed to the interests of all shareholders.”

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