Business Irish

Tuesday 23 January 2018

Battle lines are drawn as One51 boss squares up to rebel investors

John Mulligan

One51 boss Philip Lynch got his first chance yesterday to glimpse the names of shareholders, including, it is believed, some of his own employees, who have rowed in behind dissident investors Gerry Killen and John Hegarty as the trio prepare to cross swords at what is certain to be a lively AGM in Dublin tomorrow morning.

Mr Killen is leading rebel investors in an attempt to force One51, which owns stakes in companies such as ferry group Irish Continental and NTR, to justify its current investment strategy and to detail the beneficiaries of nearly €2.5m of tax-free payments that have so far been made to nine One51 executives via a complicated corporate structure.

Mr Killen and Mr Hegarty were obliged to file details yesterday of the proxies they hold and which way they will be voting at the meeting. Mr Killen declined again to say how many proxies he holds over the 120 million One51 shares that are in issue. While he holds more than 10pc, he has less than 20pc.

It remains unclear as to whether Mr Killen and Mr Hegarty will be successful in having three new directors appointed to the board at the AGM.

Mr Killen is one of the nominees, as is former Beamish & Crawford chief executive Alf Smiddy and former IBEC director Peter Brennan.

If he so wishes, it is believed Mr Killen can also propose at tomorrow's AGM that an individual be appointed to One51 in order to investigate the tax-free payments to executives. Such a motion would have to be accepted by a simple majority of more than 50pc. He has also threatened to call an extraordinary general meeting if One51 chairman Denis Buckley is unable to satisfactorily answer a long list of questions that has been put to the board by the disgruntled shareholders.

Over the weekend, One51 non-executive director Ivan Yates said that he understood the company had been "fully legally compliant" with regards to the structure used to make the payments to executives, while he also said that One51's legal team and its auditor, KPMG, had approved the payments.

Mr Killen remained adamant that he and Mr Hegarty would succeed in their attempts to secure the three board appointments tomorrow.

He maintained that the "level of unease" among investors is "considerable".

Shares in One51 have fallen from a high of €5 to their current level of €1.75. Members of co-ops around the country are among the shareholders.

Irish Independent

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