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M&B chair could be ousted at crunch annual meeting

Steve Dinneen
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THE power struggle at Mitchells & Butlers will come to a head later this morning when a bitter annual meeting kicks off.

More than 400 investors will gather to decide on new board members in a vote that has been shrouded in controversy.

A feud has festered between the board of the pub chain, which owns the All Bar One, O’Neill’s and Harvester brands, and its major shareholder, Joe Lewis’ Piedmont investment vehicle.

A key vote will be on the re-election of chairman Simon Laffin. He needs to receive a majority but given the scale of Piedmont’s vote he could face being ousted.

Lewis has been fiercely critical of the current board, blaming it for wasting £500m of shareholders’ money. He has nominated four new board members, including outgoing Debenhams chairman John Lovering.

But the board claims Lewis is wresting power from the company in what amounts to a boardroom coup.

It wrote an open letter asking shareholders to reject two of his nominees – Mike Balfour and Jeremy Blood – implying that they were not impartial.

The four Piedmont nominees hit back, saying the statement was slanderous, setting the scene for the crunch meeting today.

Piedmont has a 22.8 per cent stake in M&B. Irish racing tycoons JP McManus and John Magnier own 17.5 per cent through their investment vehicle, Elpida.