Monday, March 30, 2009

Marks & Spencer

Marks & Spencer, the big Brit retailer, (clothing, food, furniture, etc.) holds its annual shareholders meeting in July.

The key thing to know about M&S in the run-up to that meeting is that its chief executive, Stuart Ross, is also the chairman of the board.

The idea of one person holding both of those titles is customary enough in the United States, but unusual in the Mother Country, and that is what one of the institutional shareholders of M&S is challenging.

In fact, at last year's meeting, 22% of investors voted against Ross as chairman, an extraordinary degree of shareholder rebellion.

The Local Authority Pension Fund Forum, which claims to control more than 1% of M&S equity, said today that it is offering a resolution at this year's meeting to appoint an independent chairman by July 2010. Such a resolution would need the support of 75% of M&S shares to pass.

This sounds a bit quixotic but .... hey, who am I to deny the appeal of the knight of doleful countenance.

“The separation of powers at the head of a company is a fundamental governance principle, and one that is accepted by the rest of the market,” said the LAPFF Chairman in a statement.

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