Sunday 4 December 2016

Less steely men might flee but chairman stands firm

Finance

Published 21/07/2011 | 05:00

ONE wonders what it would take to set Irish Life & Permanent chairman Alan Cook running for the hills.

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At yesterday morning's EGM, his shareholders publicly berated him for "rolling over" and allowing the Government to seize their company.

They belittled his negotiating skills, suggesting they would do better themselves. And they rejected all three motions recommended by him.

When one shareholder said Mr Cook's board was "not representing us in any way", a round of applause echoed round the ballroom.

Less steely men might flee, but speaking to journalists after the heated meeting, Mr Cook insisted he was going nowhere.

"I'm here to see this organisation through this challenge," he said. "I've done this sort of thing before; I think it's important that I stick to it."

Mr Cook only took the reins at IL&P in April, when it already had a €4bn albatross around its neck courtesy of the stress tests.

But that mattered little to the 300 or so shareholders gathered in a Dublin hotel yesterday morning.

Their anger was palpable as they looked at the motions Mr Cook had asked them to pass -- motions that would leave shareholders with a 0.01pc stake of Permanent TSB bank and no stake in Irish Life itself.

"Why, in the name of God, would anyone vote for this?" asked one shareholder.

Why indeed? Mr Cook seemed stuck for words. But he later admitted it wasn't "a surprise" the motions were rejected.

Back in the meetings, criticisms of his short stewardship were coming hard and fast.

A group of shareholders should go in and negotiate with the powers that be on the terms of IL&P's recapitalisation since Mr Cook clearly wasn't up to the job, one voice from the floor suggested.

Another berated him for not challenging the constitutionality of the Credit Institutions Stabilisation Act, a law that could now see shareholders wiped out against their will.

Others leapt to the floor to ask why IL&P hadn't explored more options to get new investors or sell off the troubled bank instead of the profitable life insurance business.

"To me you're rolling over and I'm not in the mood for rolling over and I don't think anyone else here is either," one shareholder proclaimed, to cheers from the hall.

Mr Cook bore the criticisms calmly, but answers like "I've had a reasonable track record of negotiating in the past and I'm sorry if you don't feel it's strong enough" did little to soothe furious shareholders.

So could Mr Cook have handled things any better over the last months? "I don't think you can ever say you can't do things better," he told journalists.

"If I had my time again I'd have spent more time telling them that we have represented those views," he added.

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