The chairman of gold miner Petropavlovsk has stepped down, but pushes back against corporate governance criticisms

 
Courtney Goldsmith
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Hambro founded the miner in 1994, but it nearly went bust in 2010 (Source: Getty)

Peter Hambro will step down as chairman of gold miner Petropavlovsk amid a shareholder revolt.

Hambro, the founder of the Russia-focused miner, will stay on as executive director until the firm's turnaround process is complete. The company also appointed an independent interim non-executive chairman who will join following the annual general meeting (AGM) on 20 June.

The board changes come as three shareholders, including the vehicle led by billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, Renova Group, planned to oust Hambro and three non-executive directors at the London-listed company's AGM.

The shareholders, which together have a large enough stake to unseat Hambro, criticised Petropavlovsk's lack of focus on corporate governance.

Hambro said the move has nothing to do with the shareholders, as his intention to retire was first announced at the company's year-end results in April.

Today, he told City A.M. the shareholders' criticisms were "fantastically broad".

"I’ve been through everything I can find, and we’ve had non-conversations with these people over the last week or so. There was not one single thing they could point to that I could see that was substantive," Hambro said.

Renova declined to comment.

"I think we are doing what is absolutely at the apex of best practice, which is to have an independent non-executive chairman and more non-executives than executives on the board."

Industry sources have accused Renova, which holds a 15 per cent stake, of trying to gain control of the miner without launching a bid, according to reports. Renova also holds gold assets in Russia.

Hambro founded the Russia-focused gold miner in 1994 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the firm nearly went bust following the crash in gold prices that started in 2013. Petropavlovsk's market value has fallen by more than 99 per cent since its 2010 peak, when it was valued at over £2bn.

The company's turnaround process has not been easy, but in 2016 it swung back to profit.

"I think the 2016 results speak for themselves. It takes a very long time to turn around a company that is moving 30 or 40 million pounds of material a year.

"It’s taken us a while to get things right but we’ve done it," he said.

Hambro said he expects to retire from the company in about two and a half years.

The rebel shareholders are planning to appoint a group of new directors to the board, including Bruce Buck, who has chaired Chelsea Football Club since 2003.

"Here we have a company doing really well, which turned the corner and made a profit. Why on earth would you change the management at this point unless you have another reason. I wish I knew [what their reason was]."

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