Kirsh vows to oust Minerva management

Marion Dakers
BILLIONAIRE investor and activist shareholder Natie Kirsh is gearing up to oust the bosses of property developer Minerva this week.

The 78-year-old owner of investment firm KiFin forced Minerva to call an extraordinary shareholder meeting to be held this Wednesday, where he will ask investors to vote on whether to retain chief executive Salmaan Hasan and chairman Oliver Whitehead.

South Africa-born Kirsh has vowed to install London property veteran Philip Lewis as interim chief executive, along with former Investec boss Bradley Fried as non-executive director, to correct what he sees as mismanagement. He has also called for financial clarity, in particular over Minerva’s deal for residential project The Lancasters.

“We’re not going away. If we don’t win it next week, we’ll win it in six months’ time. What’s the difference?” Kirsh said in an interview with Property Week magazine.

Minerva bosses have claimed Kirsh’s plans amount to a takeover by stealth. Shareholders almost unanimously rejected KiFin’s £85m takeover bid in January, and Standard Life, which owns five per cent of the firm, recently backed the existing management.

But Kirsh has played down talk of ownership, claiming he is now “terrified” at the thought of owning a controlling stake in the firm. He has pointed out he wants to replace just two out of the eight board members.

The two sides have traded inflammatory statements in recent weeks, with Minerva calling Kirsh’s claims of mismanagement “inaccurate and unsubstantiated”.