Who’s the odd one out on this list of veteran FTSE-350 bosses? As chairs of Babcock International, Domino’s Pizza and GVC Holdings, Mike Turner, Stephen Hemsley and Lee Feldman find themselves among the first victims of governance reforms decreeing the end of their ability to act independently after nine years on the board.
In the latter two cases, a change of chairman is well overdue: Domino’s fractious current relationship with franchisees and Feldman’s mind-boggling decision to join his chief executive in a £20m share sale underline the disservice their longevity is doing to investors.
GVC’s confused efforts to defend Feldman reinforces that view: the process of identifying his successor had been underway for some time, it insisted, while simultaneously saying it was too early to have hired a headhunter to oversee it.
Similarly, Domino’s effort to bury deep in the bowels of its annual report the disclosure that it had extended Hemsley’s term by 12 months risks antagonising an already restive band of investors.
Turner’s case deserves more sympathy, but Babcock’s share price performance and the failure to protect the independence of GKN, which he also chaired, conspired to sour City sentiment against him.
What unites this trio of companies, though, is the alacrity with which investors are climbing aboard the bandwagon against chairs coming up against the nine-year rule.
The complacency that I suspect persists around many boardroom tables on the issue is about to trigger some very rude awakenings.
Superdry fight on a knife-edge
The battle of the hoodies is about to reach its endgame – or at least this chapter of it.
This time next week, Superdry co-founder Julian Dunkerton may still be an 18 per cent shareholder banging on the boardroom door from the outside, but it’ll be a close-run thing.
I hear that with just four days to go before Superdry’s EGM, a couple of big City names are about to swing behind him.
So what would success look like for Dunkerton and his co-founder James Holder?
Bearing in mind that the pair hold about 28 per cent of the shares between them, anything above, say, 40 per cent will probably be regarded as providing sufficient encouragement to have another go.
The duo have undoubtedly left Superdry rattled, to the extent that people close to the company have pointed out in recent days Holder’s plans to launch Jackit, another menswear label.
“This is just irrelevant,” a spokesman for the Superdry founders says. “It tells you more about the management team of a global billion pound clothing company like Superdry that they should be worried about a start-up selling £500-£600 jackets, into a totally different market – it’s embarrassing for them if they consider that to be competition and shows that they don’t even understand their brand or their market.”
I suspect that Dunkerton and Holder, even if they taste defeat this time, still won’t (forgive me) jacket in.
A Cenkos curiosity
Curiouser and curiouser. It’s now 144 days since Jim Durkin’s return as Cenkos Securities’ chief executive was triumphantly broadcast by its board, yet he has still not received regulatory approval.
The Financial Conduct Authority, remember, has a 90-day window to approve or reject such applications, although its clock pauses whenever it makes requests for new information or clarifications.
Durkin, though, ran Cenkos for nearly six years before he stepped down in July 2017. What the FCA could be deliberating over so painstakingly is beyond most market observers.
This week’s full-year results announcement from the AIM-listed broker only deepened the mystery. Rather than reassuring investors that Durkin’s renaissance is on track, it said only that outgoing chief executive officer Anthony Hotson would step down “as soon as a suitable successor has received regulatory approval”.
I’m now told that Durkin has a crucial interview with the FCA in the next few days, which should determine whether he gets the green light.
Any further delays – or, worse, a decision to block Durkin’s comeback – will leave Cenkos’ embattled board at the mercy of an irritated crop of shareholders.