Thursday 22 March 2018

Call to oust tycoons' proxies from pub group M&B's board

JP McManus
JP McManus
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Investors in UK pub group Mitchells & Butlers, in which Irish horse-racing tycoons JP McManus and John Magnier own more than a 23pc stake, have been urged by a shareholder advisory group to oppose the re-election of the pair's two representatives on the board.

Pensions & Investment Research Consultants (PIRC) said that Keith Browne and Eddie Irwin, both non-executive directors who represent the Irish pair's Elpida investment vehicle, are therefore not considered independent.

"There is insufficient independent representation on the board," said PIRC, which is Europe's largest independent corporate governance and shareholder advisory consultancy.

Birmingham-headquartered Mitchells & Butlers holds its AGM next week.

The FTSE-250 company is one of the UK's largest restaurant and pub groups, controlling venues such as All Bar One, Toby Carvery, O'Neill's and Harvester.

It has about 1,700 sites that serve a total of about 400 million drinks and 130 million meals every year.

John Magnier and JP McManus have owned a stake in the pub group since 2007. The company, whose CEO is Phil Urban, has a market capitalisation of £1.1bn (€1.2bn).

In its financial year to the end of last September, the company generated revenue of £2.18bn (€2.45bn) and an operating profit of £208m (€234m). Revenue was almost 5pc higher than in the previous financial year, while the operating profit was 10pc lower.

The advisory firm has also suggested that shareholders should oppose the re-election of non-executive director Josh Levy.

Mr Levy is a representative of Bahamas-based British billionaire Joe Lewis. Mr Lewis owns just under 27pc of Mitchells & Butlers.

Mr Lewis made a previous, unsuccessful takeover assault on the pub group.

"Josh Levy is not considered independent as he is a nominee of Piedmont, a significant shareholder in the company," said PIRC.

It also advised shareholders not to vote for the re-election of non-executive deputy chairman Ron Robson, as he is also an appointee of Piedmont.

PIRC has also advised shareholders to abstain from approving Mitchells & Butlers remuneration report.

"Changes in CEO total pay under the last five years are not considered in line with changes in TSR (Total Shareholder Returns) during the same period," said PIRC.

The advisory group also suggests that Mitchells & Butlers non-executive chairman, Bob Ivell, should not be re-elected by shareholders. PIRC claimed that Mr Ivell previously served in an executive capacity, and is also chairman of Carpetright. PIRC claimed this "raises concerns about his external time commitments".

Irish Independent

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