Monday 27 January 2020

One51 chief sees off bid by rebel investors to gain seats on board

But Lynch is forced to admit he took bonus despite €11m losses

One51 chief executive Philip Lynch
One51 chief executive Philip Lynch
Dissident shareholder Gerry Killen at the company's AGM in Dublin yesterday

John Mulligan

One51 chief executive Philip Lynch appears to have seen off an attempt by rebel investors to secure seats on the company's board at the company's annual general meeting.

But Mr Lynch, who hinted he would be prepared to step back from his role once part of the group is floated in 2012, was forced to admit that he received a bonus last year as part of his overall €1.4m pay packet.

One51 posted a loss of €11m last year after racking up €28.5m in exceptional charges related to a major non-cash writedown in its stake in ferry operator Irish Continental.

The revelation angered shareholders, who have seen the value of their investment plummet in recent years.

Mr Lynch said his remuneration is under review.

Dissident shareholders, led by Gerry Killen, tabled a range of questions in advance of yesterday's packed AGM, querying the group's investment strategy, financial structures used to make tax-free payments to executives and demanding to know how much Mr Lynch was paid.

Mr Killen denied after the AGM that his revolt had been misjudged and ill-timed. "We're not unhappy. But we still want answers to some questions."

Amid a mire of legal argument, shareholders were not permitted to vote directly on the proposed election of Mr Killen and two other rebel nominees to the board, Alf Smiddy and Peter Brennan.

Speaking after the marathon three-hour AGM in the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin yesterday, Mr Killen said that he would engage with his solicitors to see if legal action should be taken in light of the manner in which the vote to elect directors took place. He also said he had not yet decided whether to call an extraordinary general meeting of One51 in an attempt to seek further clarification on a number of matters.

"We will have to look at our options," he said.

Mr Lynch told shareholders, including former Bank of Ireland boss Michael Soden and well-known businessman Paschal Taggart, at a sometimes confused AGM yesterday that he had "no problem" telling them that he was paid €1.4m last year. He said that in the past six months turnover at the group was up and this was a "great result" in the circumstances.

He also openly denounced the rebel investors for the first time, telling shareholders that they tried to "distract and destabilise" the company.

"I don't do blackmail," he said. "I will not be pushed into a corner to help others."

Ivan Yates, the former Fine Gael minister who's a non-executive director of One51, and Noel Cawley, the chairman of state agricultural research body Teagasc, rowed in to support Lynch but maintained they had concerns regarding the company that they would work to address.

One51, which was spun off from food and agri group IAWS in 2005, has a diverse range of interests that primarily encompass the industrial waste recycling sector, but also stakes in firms such as NTR, financial services group IFG and alternative energy firm OpenHydro.

Irish Independent

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