A Foreign and Colonial coup

An activist investor’s audacious bid to topple the chairman of one of Britain’s best-known fund managers was backed by shareholders yesterday.

F&C Asset Management investors confirmed the board’s worst fears as they ousted chairman Nick MacAndrew and brought rebel investor Sherborne onto the board.

Voters overwhelmingly approved five resolutions to replace MacAndrew and long-standing director Brian Larcombe with Sherborne’s founder Edward Bramson (pictured), chairman Ian Brindle and an independent, Derham O’Neill.

Bramson, Sherborne’s softly-spoken founder who made a rare public appearance at the meeting, won his board seat with more than 70 per cent of the votes cast.

But sources told City A.M. Bramson received congratulations from other attendees even before the meeting began – a sign that F&C’s biggest shareholders had handed victory to Sherborne before the votes were counted.

More than 65 per cent of voting investors agreed that MacAndrew should be removed from his position and 61 per cent said Larcombe must go. But several shareholders in F&C, which traces its roots back to the Foreign and Colonial fund, used the meeting to voice anger at Sherborne’s lack of engagement and challenged Bramson to reveal his plans.

One, Mr Hall, said: “I have not been sent any paperwork by the contender as to why he should replace your good selves. The stewardship has been excellent thus far – could we have some information at this point?”

Bowing out, MacAndrew, said: “It is time for putting differences of opinion and judgment aside, for building bridges and most particularly for remembering that what matters most are the best interests of F&C, its shareholders, its staff and its other stakeholders.”

After the meeting, Bramson said he still had no plans for the next steps.

“We are joining the board to take a look at what to do,” he said. “The board has been very cooperative and the first thing is to talk to the people who work in the company.”

He said one priority was “to put the company on a better financial footing” but dismissed the need for a share issue. Asked if chief executive officer Alain Grisay would still be in the post in a year’s time, Bramson said “I certainly hope so”.

David Lis, head of UK equities at Aviva Investors, a key Bramson supporter which owns Sherborne stock as well as a 9.6 per cent stake in F&C, said he was “extremely pleased” with the win.