A power struggle at the top of Superdry looks set to intensify as Julian Dunkerton, the founder and former chief of the troubled designer, has requisitioned a shareholder meeting in a bid to muscle back on to the firm’s board.
Dunkerton, who is still an 18.4 per cent shareholder, left the business a year ago because he “could not put his name to the strategy” the company was implementing.
Now, along with co-founder and former brand and design director James Holder, Dunkerton is trying to stage a return. Between them, Holder and Dunkerton own nearly 29 per cent of the firm’s equity.
They also want to place Peter Williams, the vastly experienced chairman of online retailer Boohoo, onto the board.
Superdry has issued a string of profit warnings in recent months, most recently in December, and its shares have slumped more than two-thirds over the last year.
It is led by chief executive Euan Sutherland, who has been in charge since 2014.
The company has struggled in part because it relies on cold weather clothing as a business model, selling mainly coats, jackets and hoodies, although it also sells t-shirts. It is in the midst of a plan to diversify its stock and business model.
Dunkerton, on the other hand, has even started a website devoted to his bid to get back on the board, called Save Superdry.
“Since I left the board in March 2018, the company and the brand have been devastated through a misguided strategy,” Dunkerton said on the site.
“Having exhausted all other options for a constructive and consensual solution with the board, we have been left with no option but to requisition a general meeting to put the question of my return to the board… to a shareholder vote,” he said.
Superdry said it did not want Dunkerton back, however.
“The board of Superdry has had ongoing engagement with Julian Dunkerton and James Holder since Julian decided to leave the company in March 2018, to ensure their views have been heard and understood.
“The board has carefully considered their proposals when they have been put forward and has unanimously rejected them as not being in the interests of all shareholders. The Board believes that Mr Dunkerton’s views on the strategic direction of the group are directly at odds with the unanimous views of the management team and the board and therefore his return to the business would be counter-productive and highly disruptive.
“In terms of the appointment of Peter Williams, the board has significant reservations that he could ever be an independent director and represent the interests of all shareholders equally, given the context of his introduction.”
Superdry shares rose 2.8 per cent on Friday. Superdry has 21 days to say when the shareholders' meeting will be.