SHAREHOLDERS’ decision to put Sherborne Investors in charge of F&C Asset Management’s board yesterday resolved six months of tension.
The question now is whether new chairman Edward Bramson can relieve the uncertainty that has dogged F&C for years.
Bramson, who made a rare public appearance at yesterday’s meeting, is an enigmatic figure who has remained silent in the face of calls for more information.
F&C’s board grounded its case against Bramson in his refusal to articulate an alternative strategy for the company.
In person yesterday Bramson, slight of build and softly spoken, was just as quiet.
Shareholders present were confused and angry at his repeated refusal to step forward to justify his experience or plans for F&C to attendees. Instead, he spoke only a few words about the board nominees.
But F&C’s new chairman has clearly won the trust of its biggest institutional shareholders, who were notably silent throughout the noise of yesterday’s meeting.
Sources told City A.M. the Sherborne delegation was seen in a Starbucks close to the meeting earlier that morning, congratulating Bramson on his success in the vote before the meeting had even begun.
David Lis of key F&C shareholder Aviva Investors, said: “We are extremely pleased with the strong level of support for Sherborne and look forward to continued engagement with the F&C board and the realisation of the inherent value we believe exists in this company.”
The result is a deep disappointment for F&C’s former chairman Nick MacAndrew (pictured, far left). The former Schroders finance director had chaired F&C since 2007 and is a non-executive at insurance broker Jardine Lloyd Thompson, pub landlord Fuller and construction group Wates.
MacAndrew had urged caution over returning F&C to another period of instability after its experience de-merging from Friends Provident.
It will also be a blow to chief executive Alain Grisay (pictured, near left). The charismatic Frenchman had hit out at Sherborne, warning that F&C could go under if not properly managed.
But MacAndrew quipped yesterday that despite all of his issues with Bramson, “I can’t fault his timing.”
After all, he said, the market valuation of a company tends to lag its internal issues. F&C’s valuation may be low, but it is internally solid enough to yield good growth – the ideal time for a new chairman to step in.