Wyevale vote results in change of chairman

Shareholder Laxey wins power but not appointment

Wyevale Garden Centres has lost its eight-month battle with rebel shareholder Laxey Partners but has won a partial victory by appointing its favoured chairman. Laxey Partners, which owns a 28.6 per cent share in the chain, won just over 50 per cent of votes at an extraordinary general meeting in December. It has gained the support of hedge-fund group Millennium Partners to remove chairman David Williams and non-executive directors Andrew Lewis Pratt and Dianne Thompson. But Laxey has failed to install its preferred chairman Robert Ware after five out of six board members voted for New Look chief executive Jim Hodkinson to take over. Chairman of Laxey Partners Colin Kingsnorth said that Hodkinson was a “definite upgrade” from Williams but he added: “We’re keen to know what his motives are.” Kingsnorth added that he was disappointed Ware had not been appointed because he “had a real vision for the chain”. Williams said: “The board has asserted its independence and the right appointment has been made.” He told the meeting that Wyevale had endured an “unprecedented and unjustified degree of harassment” and said the “trench warfare” between the two groups had to stop. Shareholders at the meeting accused Laxey of not explaining its business strategy for Wyevale. Shareholder Andrew Girvan said: “Shareholders need to see both sides of the story — without that how can we be expected to vote?” Although Laxey had failed to remove Williams twice before (HW, 15 September) it benefited from reductions in the stakes of some of Williams’ supporters and a relatively low turnout. About 80 per cent of shareholders attended the meeting. Millennium Partners owns 11.2 per cent of shares. Laxey wants Wyevale to sell its portfolio of property. Kingsnorth said: “It’s no secret this is an area we’d like to look into.” The chain owns 114 centres and intends to dispose of 28 poorer performers.

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