Activist investor attacks Quarto for breaching UK listing rules

Kasmira Jefford
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SHAREHOLDERS aiming to oust Quarto’s chairman Laurence Orbach have found another bone to pick after accusing the book publisher’s board of breaching listing rules.

Harwood Capital, the activist investment firm led by Christopher Mills, is trying to oust Orbach, who set up the firm in 1976, and appoint industry veteran Tim Chadwick to the board.

Shareholders are due to vote at a special meeting on 7 November to decide on Orbach’s future.

However in a letter sent to the UK Listing Authority (UKLA) on Tuesday Harwood attacked Quarto for breaching listing rules by sending out a circular alerting shareholders to the meeting a week in advance instead of the usual 14 days.

In the letter, seen by City A.M, Harwood calls on the UKLA to take “the appropriate course of action” and postpone the meeting to allow shareholders time to lodge votes.

A spokesperson for Quarto, which produces books ranging from the Karma Sutra to knitting manuals, refuted the claims, saying the UK-listed firm abided by the rules in Delaware, where it is registered.

Mills, who together with the Wellcome Trust holds 19 per cent of the shares, has been a longstanding critic of Orbach’s leadership and in the latest row accuses the co-founder of frittering away around 150 per cent of the company’s value on acquisitions.

In a circular on Tuesday, the board said Harwood was acting “against the interests of Quarto”.