Superdry suffered a boardroom exodus tonight after the troubled retailer’s co-founder won an audacious bid to reinstall himself onto the firm’s board.
In a shock move this evening, Superdry’s entire board – including its chief executive and chairman – revealed plans to step down after Julian Dunkerton won an investor vote which will see him return to the company.
Shareholders voted by a narrow majority of 50.75 per cent to re-elect Dunkerton in a major blow to Superdry’s directors, who have previously threatened to resign after warning investors that the entrepreneur’s reappointment would be "extremely damaging".
Chairman Peter Bamford, chief executive Euan Sutherland, finance chief Ed Barker and remuneration committee chair Penny Hughes all stepped down with immediate effect today, while four other directors said they would stand down on 1 July. UBS and Investec, as brokers to Superdry, have both also resigned.
Dunkerton is set to take over as interim chief executive while Peter Williams – the former Boohoo chair who also narrowly won a vote to return to the board – has been appointed as Superdry’s chairman.
The dramatic resignations come after a bitter public row between Dunkerton and Superdry in recent months, with both sides accusing the other of leading the embattled group in the wrong direction.
Dunkerton, who stepped down from the board last year but still owns an 18 per cent stake in the business, has sought to return to the fold to revive the firm's fortunes after seeing the value of his holding plunge by £250m in 2018 following a series of profit warnings and an 80 per cent crash in the company's share price.
At a tense emergency meeting in Investec’s Gresham Street HQ this morning, a number of shareholders lashed out at the Sutherland and Bamford for their roles at the helm of the fashion group.
Chas Howes, the former finance chief of Superdry and a shareholder of the group, accused the firm of being “only interested in lining your pockets and not that of Superdry".
While the firm's second largest shareholder, Aberdeen Asset Management, backed the board, major investors such as Schroders and Investec have given their support to Dunkerton, who was chief executive of the group until 2014.
Following the results of today's vote, Dunkerton warned that there were “one or two [directors] who were fully committed to the strategy that were too proud to admit they are wrong and might have to fall on their sword”.
However, Dunkerton told City A.M.: “We will work with anybody as they long as they do what's the best strategy…they must not let pride get in the way.”