One of Mitchells & Butlers’ largest institutional shareholders yesterday issued a public statement backing the firm’s management, which is facing a revolt from dissident shareholders.<br /><br />Mitchells & Butlers, led by chief executive Adam Fowle, sent documents to the takeover panel this week alleging that Bahamas-based billionaire Joe Lewis, who controls a 23 per cent stake in the group, was “undermining the independence and effectiveness of the board”.<br /><br />Lewis vetoed the appointment of M&B’s chairman Archie Norman and was backed by horseracing tycoons John Magnier and JP McManus, who control 17.5 per cent of the group through their Elpida vehicle. <br /><br />The boardroom brawl prompted Standard Life, one of Britain’s largest fund managers, to throw its weight behind Mitchells & Butlers. <br /><br />It said: “We support the actions taken by the independent directors of Mitchells & Butlers in so far that they uphold the principles of a unitary board structure and seek to ensure that the company is run in the interests of all its shareholders.”<br /><br />The group added: “Where shareholder agreements exist, these arrangements should be transparent and should not detract from the principles of best governance practice as they apply to publicly listed companies.”<br /><br />The outspoken approach follows calls from City minister Lord Myners, who yesterday urged institutional shareholders to “stand up and speak publicly on their position”. <br /><br />Lewis denies he attempted to undermine the effectiveness of the board, but warned he may vote against replacement directors up for election at next month’s annual meeting. He has appointed heavyweight Ken Costa, chairman of Lazard International, as his adviser. <br /><br />Simon Laffin was appointed M&B chairman earlier this week, in spite of “a small number of large shareholders” calling for his resignation. He is up for election at January’s AGM and could be voted out.<br /><br />Last January, Lewis vetoed M&B’s plans to issue new shares without allowing existing shareholders first rights.