Pinewood investor ups ante on Grade

Marion Dakers
MICHAEL Grade has come under fresh fire for his performance as chairman at Pinewood Studios, with activist investor Crystal Amber calling another meeting at this week’s results announcement to discuss his departure from the firm.

“We are meeting with the management team on Wednesday, and are in correspondence with other shareholders,” Crystal Amber chief executive Richard Bernstein told City A.M.

“Our problem isn’t with the other shareholders; it’s with the management of Pinewood.”

Crystal Amber has upped its stake in the film maker from 18 to 27 per cent since Pinewood’s AGM in June, when it urged Grade to step down following poor performance.

It has overtaken Peel Holdings as the largest shareholder ahead of Pinewood’s half-year results this week.

However smaller shareholders Aberdeen Asset Management and SVG Capital, which hold 10.1 and 7.6 per cent stakes respectively, remain staunchly loyal to the chief executive.

“We are wholly supportive of Grade, and the campaign against him is damaging and wrong,” a spokesperson for SVG told City A.M. yesterday.

Grade, who is also chairman at online grocer Ocado, has withstood several attempts to oust him from Pinewood since he joined in 1999.

Since 2004 the firm’s profit before tax has fallen 56 per cent from £10.1m to £4.4m, while its operating margin has decreased from 33.5 per cent to just 18.9 per cent.

Pinewood did not respond to calls for comment.