Superdry founder ramps up pressure on board after saying he has City backing
Superdry co-founder Julian Dunkerton insists he has the backing of key City investors for his audacious bid to reinstall himself on the board of the troubled fashion chain he left last year, striking a defiant tone in the face of recent opposition from a leading shareholder advisory group.
"We’ve had a very positive response from the shareholders that we’ve met and have received multiple pledges of support," Dunkerton told City A.M earlier today.
Read more: Superdry co-founder 'disappointed' after ISS opposes motion
"Nobody that we have met during the last few weeks has pledged their support for the management team so far."
Dunkerton took another series of swipes at Euan Sutherland, accusing the Superdry boss of failing to understand his own strategy and being "too embarrassed to admit he is wrong".
Shareholders are gearing up for a crunch vote next Tuesday to decide whether Dunkerton and former Selfridges director Peter Williams should be allowed to rejoin the company, despite the current board urging investors not to allow them back.
Last week Dunkerton's chances of winning over investors suffered a setback when shareholder advisory firm ISS slammed the co-founder’s attempt to reinstall himself, saying that Superdry’s current woes were at least partly the result of Dunkerton’s own decision-making.
Read more: Superdry ‘supercharged’: Founder unveils bid for his return
Towards the end of last year, meanwhile, Aberdeen Standard Investments – Superdry's biggest institutional shareholder – backed the company's management.
Dunkerton hit back at the ISS claims this afternoon, saying the advisory group "always backs the incumbent management".
"If you read the [ISS] report, it’s just a management line. I’m not worried about it at all…any shareholder can see through that instantly".
In a recent letter to shareholders the Superdry board also insisted that there was "strong institutional shareholder support for the current strategy and management and no support for Mr Dunkerton’s report."
The entrepreneur, 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.
"The momentum is with us," he insisted today. "The City has understood there is no rationale for this current strategy."
The comments are the latest in a bitter public feud between the two sides ahead of next week’s vote, which has led to Sutherland facing intense pressure in recent months.
Responding to Superdry’s accusations that Dunkerton’s return would be "counter-productive and highly disruptive," the businessman added yesterday: "Let’s be clear, Euan has made a commitment to the new strategy and he’s too embarrassed to admit he is wrong…that is what this boils down to."
"We have a chief executive that has decided to implement a strategy that he really doesn't understand, and how sad is that for this brilliant British business."
The co-founder refused to comment on his next move if shareholders block his reappointment, saying that he was confident he would be re-installed and that "there are no hypotheticals" over him not securing the backing of shareholders.