Unhappy investors vent fury at One51 directors
Board face resignation calls at stormy annual meeting
Published 15/09/2011 | 05:00
Amount paid to Philip Lynch by One51 in 2010
Angry One51 shareholders called for the troubled company's directors to resign and heaped criticism on them for paying its ousted boss, Philip Lynch, €1.4m at a stormy annual general meeting.
Despite their protests, shareholders heard that Alan Walsh, who has been running the company since Mr Lynch's departure three months ago, wants the job on a permanent basis.
Mr Walsh told the disgruntled shareholders, who are all nursing hefty losses, that One51 had agreed a two-year plan to slim down its investment portfolio over the next two years while using the sale of other assets to pay down debt.
That did not placate investors, however, and board members Hugo Maguire, Eithne FitzGerald, Finbarr O'Neill and Mick Long, as well as chairman Denis Buckley, were urged to consider their positions amid raucous scenes.
According to its annual report, a total of €2.86m was paid to company directors in 2010, but nine unnamed directors received a total of just under €5m through a patent scheme known as Chandela.
The scheme is now being investigated by the Revenue Commissioners but Mr Walsh said it was "legitimate".
The board faced repeated criticism from the floor. Former employee and shareholder David Coyle claimed Mr Lynch's pay packet was €1.635m in 2010 -- far in excess of the €1.4m published in the annual report -- and called on the company to explore withholding his severance package.
Another shareholder, Central Bank commissioner Michael Soden, claimed only a forensic accountant could "understand the total liabilities of One51 to its executive directors, why they arose, and what performance hurdles the directors managed to meet or exceed to be granted such excessive payments".
Mr Soden went on to "wonder" if shareholders had been "misled" by the annual report.
The depth of anger among investors was made clear during the re-election of directors, with Ms FitzGerald returned to the board with only 73pc approval, while Mr Long, David Martin and Guy Hallifax all faced significant opposition before being re-elected.
In Irish companies it would be routine for board members to be elected with over 95pc approval.
The meeting -- the second in a row for the company -- overshadowed the firm's new plan to sell a number of its investments and refocus the company.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Walsh said the company would likely be concentrating on its ClearCircle waste management business as well as retaining its stakes in NTR and Irish Continental Group. He also confirmed he would be applying for the permanent role of CEO and rejected the notion that, at 34, he was too inexperienced for the job.
"If you were to bring someone to One51 it would take them some time to understand the business."
When asked by reporters why it had taken so long for the company to change its investment strategy, Mr Walsh appeared to blame Mr Lynch.
"It's about Philip [Lynch], I'm not going too comment too much on him but he was a dominant character and he ran the strategy of the organisation for a long time. He's left now and it's time for a new team."
Meanwhile, One51 released half-year results yesterday, which showed a 10pc drop in operating profit. For the first six months of the year the firm earned €16.4m, compared to €18.3m a year earlier.
Turnover rose 15pc to €218.7m, while profit after tax rose a third to €10m. Last year the company lost €104.7m, mostly on a write down of its NTR investment.