M&B opens door to rebel appointments

City A.M. Reporter
PUB and restaurant operator Mitchells & Butlers has invited the four candidates put forward to join its board by rebel shareholder Joe Lewis to meet with headhunters and its nomination committee.

The operator of All Bar One and Harvester yesterday said the meetings would enable it to formulate its recommendations as to how shareholders should vote on the appointments at its annual meeting on 28 January.

Lewis investment vehicle, Piedmont, which is M&B’s biggest shareholder with a 23 per cent stake, wants former Debenhams chairman John Lovering, Fitness First founder Michael Balfour, former Scottish & Newcastle managing director Jeremy Blood and Majestic Wines Non-executive chairman Simon Burke appointed to the board.

Piedmont’s proposal was the latest twist in a simmering dispute between Bahamas-based Lewis and the M&B board, which will come to a head at the annual meeting.

Earlier in December, M&B ousted four directors, including Lewis’ two representatives and two others, and called on the Takeover Panel to rule whether rebel shareholders were trying to gain control of the group.

M&B has accused Lewis of acting in concert with racing magnates JP McManus and John Magnier, who hold a 17.6 per cent stake in the company through their Elpida vehicle.

M&B said its “overriding objectives at the AGM will be to ensure that the board continues to have a majority of directors independent of any allegiance or favour to any single shareholder or group of shareholders”.

In a letter to shareholders, the M&B board urged shareholders to vote in favour of the re-election to the board of Simon Laffin, who was appointed chairman earlier in December, and independent director Antony Bates.