Two major shareholders throw support behind Superdry founder
Superdry co-founder Julian Dunkerton’s claim that he’s winning City support for his comeback bid seemed to have some justification on Monday as it was revealed that two large shareholders are backing his move.
On Wednesday last week, he’d told a newspaper that he was winning support although he didn’t name which shareholders were on his side. But now it seems that Investec Asset Management and Schroders, which control around 10% between them, have been won over to his view that current management is pursuing the wrong strategy and that he could do better.
Dunkerton quit the firm a year ago to focus on other projects but it later emerged that he’d been unhappy with the company’s strategy before this departure.
The board has resisted his criticism and claimed that product missteps it made were due to product signed off by Dunkerton while he was in creative control of the business. But he countered that he’d been excluding from true decision-making.
The 54-year-old remains Superdry’s biggest shareholder and believes he can get the brand back to full health if he returns to it. His original call was to join the board as a non-executive director and to get his ally, the ex-Selfridges chief Peter Williams to be voted onto the board too. But given that current CEO Euan Sutherland won’t hang around if Dunkerton wins the vote, he later said that he’s aiming for the CEO’s post if he’s allowed back in.
Will it happen? That’s unclear at present. His co-founder James Holder is backing his comeback bid and given that they own 29% of the company between them, the 10% Investec and Schroders holding means that there’s now a sizeable chunk of the shares that will swing behind Dunkerton.
However, it’s not yet the 50% he needs so the meeting on Tuesday, that he himself called, could still frustrate his ambition to return. The board is against his move, saying that it would be "extremely damaging" and Institutional Shareholder Services, which is the biggest proxy voting agency globally, has recommended a ‘no’ vote.
Yet some analysts think he could just scrape through, despite the prospect of mass resignations from the board if he rejoins it.
"We have product ready to go and are fully prepared so that we come back with a bang,” he said. “Superdry is suffering from self-inflicted wounds, we need to heal those wounds.”
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