Sunday 23 September 2018

Stobart drama plays out as Boyzone star backs ex-CEO

Boyzone star Ronan Keating supports ousted Stobart executive Andrew Tinkler
Boyzone star Ronan Keating supports ousted Stobart executive Andrew Tinkler
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Boyzone singer Ronan Keating is among those to have been lent support to ousted Stobart executive Andrew Tinkler as Mr Tinkler attempted yesterday to engineer a boardroom coup at the UK transport-to-energy group's annual general meeting on the Channel Islands.

But the fate of the company's chairman, Iain Ferguson, whom Mr Tinkler has been vying to have voted off the board, remained unknown last night.

Stobart, whose aviation division operates the Aer Lingus Regional service, said yesterday that the counting of votes for all resolutions put forward at the AGM was still under way and that the results would not be known yesterday.

In last-minute developments, a Guernsey court had rejected Mr Tinkler's efforts to secure an injunction against Stobart preventing him from standing for election at the meeting.

And before the AGM got under way in Guernsey, Stobart's chief financial officer, Richard Laycock, resigned, adding drama to the showdown.

Last month, Stobart Group sacked Mr Tinkler in an acrimonious battle that has resulted in both sides launching legal action against each other. As it fired Mr Tinkler, a former chief executive of the group, Stobart said that it would bring proceedings against him for alleged breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.

Stobart has issued an almost £4m (€4.5m) lawsuit against Mr Tinkler, related to past related-party transactions. Mr Tinkler has sued Stobart's Mr Ferguson, chief executive Warwick Brady and three other directors for defamation.

Mr Keating tweeted last week that it is "absolutely disgraceful what they are saying about our friend [Mr Tinkler]. The company would not be where it is without him." In another tweet, Mr Keating described Mr Tinkler as a "great friend", as Boyzone kicked off concerts in the UK last week and he posted a photo of the group on Instagram with the businessman.

Mr Tinkler, who owns 7.7pc of Stobart Group, has spearheaded efforts to overthrow Mr Ferguson and replace him with the billionaire Philip Day, the owner of Edinburgh Woollen Mill.

Mr Tinkler had mustered support from shareholders including Woodford Investment Management, owned by fund manager Neil Woodford, which owns 20pc of Stobart.

Invesco Perpetual, which is Stobart's largest shareholder with a 25pc holding, was expected to support the group's management team at yesterday's crunch AGM.

"Regardless of the way you vote, there are hugely important principles at stake," Mr Ferguson told Stobart shareholders yesterday.

"This is not just about Stobart, but about how companies are run for all stakeholders, for shareholders, staff and society."

Last month, Ryanair announced that it will base three aircraft at London Southend Airport, which is owned by Stobart.

Irish Independent

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