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Former directors of Eason seek positions on the board

SIX former directors of the Irish-owned book and stationary retailer Eason have written to its 200-plus shareholders, asking them for support in a push to get boardroom representation.

Signatures to the letter, which was sent on May 18 in the run-up to Eason's annual general meeting on June 26, include those of former managing directors Basil McAllister and Gordon Bolton; ex-chairmen Harold Clarke and John Cudlipp; and previous directors Andrew Walmsley and Graham Hall.

The ex-directors, who are also significant shareholders, are understood to be seeking between two and four places on the board of directors at Easons, which is chaired by James Osborne.

He also chairs Independent News & Media, the publisher of the Sunday Independent.

The board has seven members and, under its articles, can be eight in size.

In a statement, Eason said: "The Eason chairman has been engaged in ongoing consultation with shareholders with regard to a range of issues over the course of the last year.

"In response to shareholder feedback throughout the year, the board has decided to put in place a process to allow for one additional non-executive director to be elected from the shareholder base at the forthcoming AGM.

"This new non-executive director will be in addition to the two existing non-executive directors currently drawn from the shareholder base."

The letter from the group of six former directors claims that over half of the shareholders in Eason were opposed to any changes in the rules that have governed the company since 1887.

These changes include doubling its authorised share capital to €40m. The changes did not go ahead because of shareholder opposition.

The letter stated that this was "the first time in the history of Eason that a proposal from the board has been rejected and the board now face an uphill battle if they are to restore the faith of shareholders".

The six ex-directors claim that the changes would have "dissipated" shareholder rights and that as a result they wanted board representation.

Eason, however, proposed the changes only after shareholders had raised concerns about liquidity in its stock at its last AGM in June 2011.

The company, which is led by Conor Whelan, has cut its cost base by €8m and invested €20m in revamping and expanding its business.

Sunday Indo Business