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Rebel investors oust chairman of pub group M&B

Rebel investors at UK pub group Mitchells & Butlers (M&B), including Irish horse racing tycoons JP McManus and John Magnier, yesterday succeeded in ousting the company's chairman and installing a team of new non-executive board members that includes Superquinn chairman Simon Burke.

Mr Burke was among a number of non-executive directors proposed for election at M&B's AGM yesterday by the Piedmont investment vehicle, which is owned by Bahamas-based British billionaire Joe Lewis. Piedmont has a 22.8pc stake in the listed pub group, whose pubs trade under names such as O'Neill's and All Bar One. The Irish pair of multimillionaires own 17.6pc via their Elpida investment group.

Piedmont has been involved in a public row with the M&B board for months, accusing it of failing shareholders.

Elpida had remained publicly silent on the fracas until just days ago, when it voiced its backing for Piedmont and called for a fresh board and the replacement of M&B chairman Simon Laffin.

The bust-up had turned increasingly ugly in recent weeks with accusations and counter-accusations being slung by both Piedmont and M&B. Mr Laffin, who yesterday lost his re-election bid, had removed two non-executive Piedmont directors from the board -- claiming they had not been exercising judgment independently of each other "in the interests of all shareholders".

Two other non-executive directors, including former EU Commissioner and Tanaiste Ray MacSharry were also removed by Mr Laffin.

Hedge fund

Mr MacSharry had been appointed at the request of 5pc hedge fund shareholder Leo Fund, which said it had the support of Elpida and Piedmont for the appointment.

Mr Laffin also took his case to the UK's Takeover Panel, which subsequently said there was no evidence that Piedmont and Elpida were working in concert to wrest control of the pub group. An Elpida representative, Edward Banks, read a statement at a packed M&B AGM in Birmingham yesterday, claiming the pub group was failing to achieve its potential.

"We think the corporate governance of this company has failed," said Mr Banks. "Elpida does not want to control this company. We just want to see it run better. All of us will benefit equally from that."

He received applause from just one shareholder when he closed his remarks.

John Lovering, who was elected chairman yesterday, said a review of the M&B business would be undertaken and completed by the end of March.

He said all aspects of the business would be examined, including the number of brands and overhead costs.

Irish Independent