Wyevale vote defeats Laxey

Garden centre group board fends off rebel shareholder bid to oust chairman David Williams

Wyevale Garden Centres has won a narrow victory against rebel shareholder Laxey Investors and will now implement its radical shake-up of the company (HW, 21 July). At an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) held in London last week, Laxey called for the removal of three directors, including chairman David Williams, and the appointment of former MEPC property group executive Robert Ware. Ordinary shareholders swung the vote against Laxey’s proposals by less than one million shares. Williams said Laxey, which has 28 per cent of shares, is “a complete pain in the arse when you’re trying to run a business”. Millennium Partners, with 10 per cent of shares, also voted for the resolution. Laxey did not have a representative to speak at the EGM, prompting Williams to say it “skulks around in corridors”, rather than looking to improve the business. Williams said 95 per cent of shareholders other than Laxey or Millennium voted in favour of the board. He added: “It was always going to be close, given that Laxey and friends have spent £100 million, so that must be galling. I would like to think this is the end but we are entering a time of year that is going to be quite turbulent.” Williams said buying director Glyn Price is a “very special commodity”, particularly with the lack of horticulture business knowledge at the company following the departure of chief executive Bob Hewitt and chairman Brian Evans. “We need to give the horticulture side of our business greater prominence in our stores. Many customers don’t have the same level of horticultural knowledge as us so we need to demystify it,” he added. A company representative said the vote showed that the shareholders did not want Wyevale, which valued its property at £265 million last week, to be broken up.

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