Former Stobart chief Andrew Tinkler will launch his claim for defamation against five of the company's directors in court tomorrow, reigniting what has been a bitter battle.
Tinkler, who was fired from the Stobart board last July, claims a statement put out by the FTSE 250 firm last May contained "false and defamatory material" about him.
The statement, issued in a regulatory announcement on 29 May, claimed Tinkler posed "challenges" to the company and accused him of destabilising the group at a "crucial time for the business" through his decision to urge shareholders to vote against the re-election of Iain Ferguson, the current Stobart chairman.
Ferguson was narrowly re-elected but announced after the vote that he would stand down as chairman. The company is in the process of finding a successor.
The five directors facing the claim, which will be heard in a pre-trial hearing at the Court of Appeal, are Ferguson, chief executive Warwick Brady and non-executive directors Andrew Wood, Richard Laycock and John Coombs. Stobart declined to comment. A spokesperson for Tinkler declined to comment.
In February, Stobart claimed victory against Tinkler in a separate case after a judge found Tinkler had acted in breach of his fiduciary duties during his campaign to oust Ferguson from his position.
Judge Russen said Tinkler breached his contractual and fiduciary duties in four ways: by agitating for the removal of Ferguson among major shareholders and by criticising the board’s management; sharing the confidential budget for a wood-burning incinerator the company owned with Edinburgh Woollen Mill boss Philip Day; writing a letter to shareholders – which he also sent to all company staff – urging them to remove Ferguson; and by orchestrating a letter from members of the firm’s executive leadership team and an employee petition in his support.
The judge also ruled that Stobart had not managed to establish its claim against Tinkler that he had launched an unlawful conspiracy to topple its board. Russen found that Stobart's dismissal of Tinkler was lawful.