De La Rue hits back at activist investor’s threat to oust chairman by urging shareholders to reappoint him
Banknote maker De La Rue has hit back at an activist investor who wants to oust its chairman amid an escalating row about the future of the beleaguered business.
The troubled company, which lost the contract to produce Britain’s blue post-Brexit passports in a humiliating defeat last year, urged shareholders to reappoint its chairman Philip Rogerson at its annual meeting next week.
De La Rue’s plea comes as Crystal Amber, the activist fund which owns a 6.3 per cent stake, threatened to call a fresh shareholder vote on Rogerson’s future if he does not step down by next Thursday.
Bitter blow: De La Rue lost the contract to produce Britain’s blue post-Brexit passports in a humiliating defeat last year
The banknote firm said: ‘This precipitous and destabilising Crystal Amber proposal is very clearly not in the best interests of the company.
‘De La Rue already has in place, and is progressing at pace, an orderly succession plan.
‘In stark contrast to the Crystal Amber proposal, this plan helps ensure vital senior leadership continuity, at a time of significant and necessary change in the business.’
Rogerson has agreed to retire after he helps De La Rue finds a new chief executive. Its former boss, Martin Sutherland, resigned in May following its third profit warning in less than two years.
One shareholder said: ‘I can’t understand how this useless chairman thinks he should be choosing the new chief executive, or even a new non-executive director. It should be left to a new chairman.’
Since Rogerson, 74, became chairman in 2012, De La Rue’s shares are down more than 71 per cent and investors have lost £529million.
He also presided over controversial bonuses which saw Sunderland bag £197,000 last year despite the shares falling by almost 45 per cent.
Influential shareholder advisory group ISS has recommended that investors vote against De La Rue’s remuneration report next week.
Richard Bernstein, who manages Crystal Amber, claimed Rogerson was unresponsive when introduced to firms which might want to buy or work with De La Rue, blocking efforts which might have helped return cash to shareholders.
De La Rue conceded that Rogerson had received an email from Bernstein which copied in a potential suitor for the business, but said that it never advanced discussions because the possible bidder did not reply.
Bernstein said: ‘It’s astonishing, they’re acting like teenagers on a first date. Ignoring an email just because someone didn’t message them first.
‘No wonder shareholders have lost more than £500million since Rogerson became chairman.
‘This is a misleading response motivated by a desire to distract attention away from woeful performance and payment of egregious bonuses for destruction of shareholder value.’
De La Rue hit back, saying it encourages and rewards actions that help it grow. It claimed neither firm Bernstein suggested it acquire would have stood up to scratch.