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Neil Woodford slams Stobart board after bust-up

Fund manager calls on Stobart chairman Iain Ferguson to resign after a boardroom bust-up at the firm.

 
Neil Woodford slams Stobart board after bust-up
 

Fund manager Neil Woodford has called on Stobart (STOB) chairman Iain Ferguson to resign, after a boardroom bust-up at the firm. 

Last week the infrastructure and support services sacked its former chief Andrew Tinkler from its board amid accusations of a 'flagrant disregard for fiduciary duties'.  

In a statement, Woodford reiterated his desire for Ferguson to be replaced by well known retail boardroom veteran Philip Day. 

He also fired a broadside at the board for obstructing responsible shareholder behaviour.

'People often criticise fund managers for being absentee landlords and for failing to engage with boards appropriately. Yet, in this instance, Woodford [Investment Management] is being criticised for doing precisely that,' Woodford said. 

'We’re exercising our legitimate right as a shareholder (representing our investors) to seek to replace one member of the board, yet some members of the board, using the company’s resources, have sought to obstruct this process.

'We question its motivations for seeking to frustrate the appropriate behaviour of a responsible shareholder.'

Prior his sacking, Tinkler has been trying to oust Ferguson. He was said to have the backing of 20 fund managers and significant investors, including Woodford, who is the second biggest investor in the firm, with a 20.3% stake. His former Invesco Perpetual colleague Mark Barnett is the largest shareholder.  

In a letter to shareholders last Friday, Stobart described Tinkler's rebellion as going totally against the firm's plans to move away from from its 'entrepreneurial approach' and back to the original ethos of the business. 

However, Woodford believes a new chairman was needed to restore stability.

'I have been one of the largest shareholders in the Stobart Group for more than a decade. Recently I have become aware, with other shareholders, of board instability and have sought to address this privately. Once I became aware of these governance issues, I undertook extensive diligence in order to establish the causes of this instability,' he said.

'My motivation, as a leading shareholder has been to ensure that the company is able to continue to deliver great returns to all of its shareholders.

'Sadly, the noard has seemed determined to make this a public discussion and has wasted shareholder funds by employing lawyers that have made unfounded and ludicrous allegations against me and other parties.' 

He added: 'Throughout my time as a Stobart Group shareholder, I have been able to observe Andrew Tinkler as a senior executive. It is his creative and entrepreneurial leadership that has delivered shareholder value for Stobart Group. He is an unconventional, straight talking, honourable man.' 

Dubai-based Day is the CEO and owner of the Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group, which owns Peacocks, Jaeger, Jane Norman and Austin Reed. 

'[Day] has extensive experience managing and leading diverse businesses in challenging environments whilst delivering excellent returns to shareholders,' Woodford added. 

'I believe he will be a very strong and effective leader of Stobart group at a time when the business needs just that. Ultimately, I would like him to become chairman but that will be up to the board to decide.' 

 

 

 

 

22 comments so far. Why not have your say?

mc2

Jun 18, 2018 at 17:16

Well done Neil, set your lawyers on them....

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Tony Peterson

Jun 18, 2018 at 18:09

This could well turn out to be Woodford's most costly misjudgment.

Has he consulted his fundholders I wonder? My ISA providers will place our votes in accordance with our wishes.

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richard tomkin

Jun 18, 2018 at 20:06

His sunset years are passed fire-fighting : how sad.

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Stobart Air

Jun 19, 2018 at 00:23

Getting rid of Andrew Tinkler, was the best decision the Stobart Group have made in a long time. He was bad for business and treated his suppliers in a horrible manner, at times not paying them was standard practice. nasty man he is, good riddance.

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Anonymous 1 needed this 'off the record'

Jun 19, 2018 at 18:31

excellent returns to shareholders...He was bad for business and treated his suppliers in a horrible manner, at times not paying them was standard practice. nasty man he is, good riddance.

Long after last year's divi is paid and spent the company will fulfill its role as part of the community, as an employer, as a valuable cog in UK plc.

Back off the 'shareholder value' argument, let the company invest in itself and not in its shareholders. One day Woodford will be gone, anyone remember Bolton? Companies are employers and manufacturers of GDP and bond issuers.

Back off, let it breathe and if the staff its cr*p, pay attention because will the shares will soon follow suit.

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Tony Peterson

Jun 19, 2018 at 20:24

A few points about Tinkler and the other conspirators are publicly known.

The latest Stobart accounts show that Tinkler was paid £5.5 million this year, around five times his nearest fellow director, the CEO, and 33 times the remuneration of the chairman he wishes to remove. And this in a company which only made £113M profit for the year. He is alleged to have demanded an ex gratia bonus that would have more than doubled this. He allegedly demanded his payments through illegal tax avoidance schemes. This is currently a matter for the courts. And possibly, too, the FCA, if it is awake.

But of course, as Neil points out, Tinkler is an honourable man. So are they all, all honourable men. Including Neil himself. Let's see what the courts make out of them.

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retired investor 2

Jun 19, 2018 at 23:00

I am surprised Woodward backs a company which pays its CEO £5.5m for £113M profit. Too much pay,too lttle profit.

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Tony Peterson

Jun 21, 2018 at 06:58

r i 2

Tinkler stepped down from being CEO a year ago. The CEO only got a fifth of his total payout. And it is claimed Tinkler was demanding 8 million more.

There are already court cases over previous excesses. This is a serious business - and should be in the hands of the FCA.

Woodford is making an ass of himself yet again. This may well prove a very costly mistake for his own contributors.

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philip gosling

Jun 22, 2018 at 09:14

Surprised at Woodford supporting a 'tits man' who gets paid a fantastic salary for not much profit.

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Tony Peterson

Jun 22, 2018 at 09:25

philip

I am not surprised at anything an over-self-paid, self-publicising, underperforming fund manager would get up to.

There's a strong whiff of criminality in this conspiracy to topple an otherwise decent FTSE250 board.

There are issues, previous and present, before the courts now. I think Woody is making his biggest mistake.

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mc2

Jun 22, 2018 at 10:22

Well, Woody is not an unperforming manager for me and neither for those investors you got in at the right time and at the right price...

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retired investor 2

Jun 22, 2018 at 13:14

Every dog has its day- a 16th century proverb. The consideration in investing with Mr Woodford is judging whether his day ( as a top investor) is over.

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mc2

Jun 22, 2018 at 13:41

RETIRED 2... well, whether Woodford's career s up or down, left or right - I leave that to speculate... But while he's there and whether he's going up or down left or right, I'll try to make money from whatever he does or doesn't.

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Dennis .

Jun 23, 2018 at 10:11

Surely the issue is why is Woodford invested in this outfit in the first place? He seems to have a history of investing in companies with problems.

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bryaz

Jun 23, 2018 at 10:14

i wonder if the board of woodfords investment trusts have considered sacking him i believe he has under performed .did he invest in stobart because of stinkler sorry tinkler because from what i can see the direction of the company has not really changed

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Tony Peterson

Jun 23, 2018 at 11:21

The problem with Stobarts is, as above informed comments show, Andrew Tinkler, who appears to believe he has the right to pick the corporate pocket whenever he feels like it.

Woodford's support for him, and the conspiracy to replace an honourable chairman with a billionaire tax exile in the Philip Green mould should alarm all of those of you who have let Woodford manage your money, and steal your votes.

I am voting with the board.

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mc2

Jun 23, 2018 at 11:41

Woody has been speaking against market speculators and their short-termism in the DM... But far more important he has chucked away his jumper and is back on suit and tie.... A sure sign he's getting serious again

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Michael Whitehouse

Jun 23, 2018 at 11:44

I wonder why HL still backs Woodford with such enthusiasm? I sold all my Woodford!

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Tony Peterson

Jun 23, 2018 at 12:38

Tinkler was recently reported as having emailed that he would do a lot better if he had a pair of "t*ts".

I think he has found them.

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Charles Hughes

Jun 24, 2018 at 20:11

ditto Michael Whitehouse but surely you know why HL still backs Woodford......

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Charles Hughes

Jun 24, 2018 at 20:11

ditto Michael Whitehouse but surely you know why HL still backs Woodford......

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Michael Whitehouse

Jun 24, 2018 at 20:57

Not really. One has suspicions that some "benefit" for them. I hold shares in HL!

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