A diverse supervisory board: This is how to unlock a wealth of talent

Aniel Mahabier, CEO of governance data specialist CGLytics, welcomes the fact that selection committees are using corporate governance analytics to assess the diversity of their own supervisory board. Technology is bridging the gap between the available talent and the knowledge and experience that committees already have in-house.

“Selection committees are looking for the right candidates outside their traditional networks”, says Aniel Mahabier, founder and CEO of governance data specialist CGLytics. Such an alternative approach, for example through the use of data analysis, has major advantages: people with unique experience and unique talent are put on the radar.

In many organizations – listed and unlisted – supervision is far from diverse. A supervisory board with only people of the same generation, background and education cannot properly monitor the continuity of the company in the changing society. Such a homogeneous council cannot sufficiently monitor the interests of the various stakeholders.

An important task therefore lies with the selection committees that are responsible for a balanced composition of the supervisory board. We see that selection committees use our corporate governance analytics to assess and benchmark the diversity of their own supervisory board. For example, to be able to answer questions from international shareholders and when planning succession. For example, they test the current composition against the various international corporate governance codes and sustainability regulations. This contributes to effective management and good risk management.  

Click here to continue reading the full article.

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Blue Sky Downfall – What went wrong?

While no company wants to find itself in a state of voluntary administration, it is a stark reality faced by the Australian-based fund manager Blue Sky Alternative Investments Limited. The company is currently undergoing administration, following years of challenging circumstances starting as early as 2017.

When facing bankruptcy or insolvency, companies have the option of going into voluntary administration. This is when an independent and qualified person (a voluntary administrator) takes over a company’s assets and business operations in an attempt to salvage the company [1].

While no company wants to find itself in a state of voluntary administration, it is a stark reality faced by the Australian-based fund manager Blue Sky Alternative Investments Limited. The company is currently undergoing administration, following years of challenging circumstances starting as early as 2017. The future of a company that was once named one of Brisbane’s top companies is now uncertain [2] after US-based short-seller Glaucus reported that the company had overstated its valuation and disregarded some of its key business obligations [3].

Despite Blue Sky’s former Chief Executive Officer Robert Shand’s claims that the company had grown by 50 per cent across key performance metrics, Glaucus expressed skepticism regarding the credibility of Blue Sky’s valuations [4]. The research company’s analysis showed that Blue Sky’s real fee earning asset under management was valued at maximum AUD 1.5 billion, which was 63 per cent short of the AUD 3.9 billion that Blue Sky had reported [5]. The inflated representation of figures may have helped with boosting share prices and more access to capital. Blue Sky was also criticized for allegedly overcharging its clients with inflated management fees.

Shortly after the release of the Glaucus report, Blue Sky suspended its trading to review the claims of the short-seller hedge fund [6]. Just one week later, the company’s share prices dropped by 41 per cent by April 5, 2018 [7]. Despite its free falling share prices, Blue Sky’s response in the face of such accusations was to call on the Australian Investments and Securities Commission (ASIC) to investigate and question the integrity of Glaucus rather than to refute the latter’s claims with evidence, fostering even more pessimistic investor sentiments.

Even in the midst of battling to keep themselves afloat and avoiding more trade suspensions, Blue Sky nonetheless remained optimistic. This was until September 2018, when it confirmed that a US-based investment firm, Oaktree Capital, would be providing the Australian company with a seven-year-loan facility of AUD 50 million to facilitate the recovery of the company [8].  However, not long after the loan agreement, Blue Sky announced it will fail to meet its obligations to Oaktree [9], breaching its financial covenant as it reported an after tax net loss of AUD 25.7 million for the first half of 2019. Blue Sky Alternative Access Fund, Blue Sky Alternative Investment’s fund management subsidiary, also decided to withdraw from its parent company until ongoing legal actions were concluded [10].

After many failed deals and breaches of financial obligations, Blue Sky was suspended from the ASX 300 on May 2019. The company has also announced that the advisory and investment firm, KordaMentha, has been selected as its receiver and manager, and is currently still in administration [11].

What went wrong?

Not only did Blue Sky fail to display transparency during the short-seller report, but it also failed to comply with the 3rd edition of the ASX’s Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations, where a listed entity must maintain a majority of independent directors in their board [12]. In early 2017, John Kain, who served as the Chairman of Blue Sky, was the only independent member of the board, the other six being Executive Directors. This pushed Blue Sky to appoint two more independent directors in February 2017 but still failed to compose a board with an independent majority board of directors [13]. The Australian Institute of Company Directors states that Non-Executive Directors provide independence and objectivity to the board. An objective and outside perspective supports the idea of acting in the best interest of the company and monitoring the Chief Executive Officer and senior executives without partiality [14]. Independent directors also act as expert advisors in areas where the company aims to grow and develop [15].

Board diversity Blue Sky

As of February 2017, the board of Blue Sky was composed of: John Kain (Independent Chairman), Michael Gordon (Independent Non-Executive Director), Philip Hennessy (Independent Non-Executive Director), Alexander McNab (Executive Director), Kim Morison (Executive Director), Timothy Wilson (Executive Director) and Mark Sowerby (Founder and Executive Director). Based on the CGLytics analysis, only 43 per cent of the board in 2017 were independent non-executive directors, even after the appointment of two additional independent directors. In addition, the analysis also shows that there are no female members, resulting in a less diverse board [16].

Board expertise Blue Sky

The board expertise tool of CGLytics that provides insight of the board skills matrix shows that the company lacked an expertise in risk. Although Blue Sky’s Board is strong in the finance expertise due to its company sector, independent directors experienced in risk management could facilitate in monitoring and assuring the reliability of the financial information provided by the company. However, both independent members and risk expertise were lacking.

There was also a high turnover of board members and senior executives during the whole debacle. The first to depart the company in 2016 was founder Mark Sowerby. This raised concerns due to his sale of approximately AUD 27 million worth of company shares and may have started the downfall and speculation of Blue Sky’s future [17]. In April 2018, Robert Shand, the supposed optimistic managing director of Blue Sky has also stepped down from the board [18]. Moreover, the company had to appoint three different Chief Financial Officers in a span of seven months [19]. Mr. Joel Cann was appointed as Chief Executive Officer as he had extensive experience in rebuilding Aspen, where he was also appointed as CEO in 2016 [20]. After just two months, Blue Sky announces that it no longer required a CEO, forcing Joel Cann to depart the board [21]. The high rate of departures could have led to an inefficiency in productivity [22]. A recent analysis performed by CGLytics on executive departures from S&P 500 companies reveals that having more than one executive resignation in a year may cause the company’s Total Shareholder Return to decline [23].

exec departures

A significant number of departures may potentially lead to a lack of confidence for the future and can slow down the growth of shareholder investments.

Conclusion

Although no one would have expected the drastic plunge of Blue Sky, it could have been minimized or mitigated with good governance practices and decisions throughout the volatile season of the company. Appointing competent and independent directors that have the right skills to oversee executive management can effectively and ultimately add value to the company and avoid risks of uncertainty in businesses.

Click here to learn more about CGLytics’ boardroom intelligence capabilities and executive remuneration analytics, used by institutional investors, activist investors and advisors.

[1] https://asic.gov.au/regulatory-resources/insolvency/insolvency-for-employees/voluntary-administration-a-guide-for-employees/

[2] https://www.businessnewsaus.com.au/articles/2017-brisbane-top-companies-21-30.html

[3] https://www.bonitasresearch.com/company/blue-sky-alternative-investments-ltd-asx-bla/

[4] https://www.asx.com.au/asxpdf/20161006/pdf/43brx5pyfghn67.pdf

[5] https://www.bonitasresearch.com/company/blue-sky-alternative-investments-ltd-asx-bla/

[6] https://www.businessnewsaus.com.au/articles/short-seller-hits-blue-sky–sends-shares-tumbling.html

[7] https://www.businessnewsaus.com.au/articles/blue-sky-shares-take-another-big-hit-on-glaucus-stoush.html

[8] https://www.businessnewsaus.com.au/articles/oaktree-saves-blue-sky-with–50m-investment.html

[9] https://www.businessnewsaus.com.au/articles/blue-sky-fails-to-meet-oaktree-loan-conditions.html

[10] https://www.businessnewsaus.com.au/articles/blue-sky-s-alternative-access-fund-cuts-supply-to-mothership.html

[11] https://www.businessnewsaus.com.au/articles/blue-sky-calls-in-receivers.html

[12] https://www.businessnewsaus.com.au/articles/critics-call-for-more-independent-directors-on-blue-sky-board.html

[13] https://www.asx.com.au/asxpdf/20170220/pdf/43g3njpm12fzft.pdf

[14] https://aicd.companydirectors.com.au/-/media/cd2/resources/director-resources/director-tools/pdf/05446-1-11-mem-director-tools-bc-non-executive-directors_a4_web.ashx

[15] https://medium.com/@theBoardlist/five-reasons-you-need-an-independent-director-on-your-board-dc300f668a41

[16] https://www.asx.com.au/documents/asx-compliance/cgc-principles-and-recommendations-3rd-edn.pdf

[17] https://www.businessnewsaus.com.au/articles/blue-sky-in-freefall–calling-for-asic-intervention.html

[18] https://www.businessnewsaus.com.au/articles/blue-sky-md-and-executives-resign-in-the-wake-of-glaucus-saga.html

[19] https://www.businessnewsaus.com.au/articles/blue-sky-appoints-third-cfo-in-seven-months.html

[20] https://www.businessnewsaus.com.au/articles/joel-cann-takes-the-reins-at-blue-sky.html

[21] https://www.businessnewsaus.com.au/articles/blue-sky-ceo-no-longer-required.html

[22] https://boardmember.com/sudden-ceo-departures-can-upend-an-unprepared-board/

[23] https://cglytics.com/the-effect-of-executive-departures-on-company-performance/

About the author

Alex Co: APAC Research Analyst

Alex graduated from the S P Jain School of Global Management in Sydney with a degree in finance and entrepreneurship. She previously worked in the compliance division at a large financial institution and gained her experience as a research analyst.

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GlaxoSmithKline: Hampton’s departure gives a sense of unfinished business

CGLytics’ examines the board expertise and director interlocks of GSK both pre- and post-appointment of Mr. Jonathan Symonds, following Philip Hampton’s resignation as Chairman.

This article examines GlaxoSmithKline’s board expertise and director interlocks both prior and post the appointment of Mr. Jonathan Symonds; replacing Chairman Philip Hampton.

GlaxoSmithKline plc (GSK) announced in December 2018 the merger of its non-prescription drug and parapharmacy activities with those of the American giant Pfizer. The two labs are creating a GBP 10 billion joint venture, which will become the industry leader with GSK holding a majority of the shares – 68% and Pfizer a 32% holding. Within three years however, GSK plans to separate from this new entity and introduce it on the London Stock Exchange, placing Emma Walmsley as the CEO. There will therefore be a demerger project for GSK, aiming at separating their consumer health division (merged with Pfizer’s business) from their pharmaceutical and vaccines one. A lot of investors have been asking for this demerger over the past few years, however GSK is still in the middle of a transformation that is not quite complete.

The company intended, since 2015, to recover its Free Cash Flow (FCF) after the expenses arising from the costs of restructuration and integration of the Novartis deal. The company’s FCF is recovering quite well, with a GBP 5.7 billion in 2018 (+63% compared to 2017).

In January of this year, the Chairman of GSK, Philip Hampton, announced his decision to step down from his position after three and a half years and declared:

“Following the announcement of our deal with Pfizer and the intended separation of the new consumer business, I believe this is the right moment to step down and allow a new Chair to oversee this process through to its conclusion over the next few years.”

 

GSK announced their decision for a successor of Mr. Hampton, and it appears that Mr. Jonathan Symonds will be taking that role. Both individuals have different backgrounds and expertise. Mr. Symonds brings with him a strong pharmaceutical background together with corporate governance and corporate development experience. He was CFO of Novartis AG from 2009 to 2013 and prior to that CFO of AstraZeneca plc. He has been Deputy Group Chairman at HSBC Holdings plc since August 2018 and its Independent Non-Executive Director since April 2014. During his past experience, he has proven to be an expert of corporate changes. The most important transactions of Novartis (acquisition of Alcon) and AstraZeneca (acquisition of MedImmune) took place under his tenure. The experience Mr. Symonds brings with him added to his international finance knowledge make him a great fit for the upcoming challenges GSK will face.

The board expertise diagrams, produced directly from data and analytics in CGLytics’ platform, show GlaxoSmithKline’s board expertise matrix before and after Symonds’ appointment. The information used for producing CGLytics’ expertise and skills matrices in the SaaS offering is standardized and applied consistency to more than 5,500 companies globally for easy comparison, analysis and benchmarking of boards composition.

GSK board expertise prior to Symonds 4

Looking at the current board composition of GlaxoSmithKline, the Board’s strongest expertise are International, Governance, Leadership and Executive. The Board however currently has no director with Technology expertise. Five directors, including Sir Philip Hampton, have Financial expertise, having served as Finance Director of BG Group Limited. The Chairman nonetheless lacks Industry expertise which is in line with what market watchers have said.

The chart below displays the company’s expertise with the coming of the new Chairman Mr. Symonds. Jonathan also brings with him Non-Executive, Financial, Executive, Governance expertise among others. However, he also brings with him Industry expertise having served as CFO of Novartis AG. With his addition, the board will still lack in the area of Technology expertise.

GSK board expertise with Symonds 4

Another interesting insight is that Hampton is not currently sitting on any other company’s board, unlike Symonds who is currently sitting on four different boards (including HSBC Holdings plc). One could easily argue about the effectiveness of that choice when it comes to availability and focus/time dedication for the heavy incoming agenda.

The UK Corporate Governance Code advises:

“Additional external appointments should not be undertaken without prior approval of the board, with the reasons for permitting significant appointments explained in the annual report. Full-time executive directors should not take on more than one non-executive directorship in a FTSE 100 company or other significant appointment.”

Glass Lewis, in their UK 2019 Proxy Paper Guidelines, recommends:

“Voting against a director who serves as an executive officer of any public company while serving on a total of more than two public company boards, and any other director who serves on a total of more than five public company boards.”

On the other hand, investment management company BlackRock Inc., top shareholder of GSK’s capital, shares in their 2019 Proxy Voting Policy document that they would:

“Expect companies to provide a clear explanation in situations where a board candidate is a director serving on more than three other public company boards; or a Chairman serving on more than two other public company boards (or only one if this is an additional chairmanship).”

Finally, the recommendations of GSK’s second largest shareholder – asset management group Vanguard – state that:

“A fund will vote against any director who is a Named Executive Officer (NEO) and sits on more than one outside public board.”

Additionally,

“A fund will also vote against any director who serves on five or more public company boards.”

Mr. Symonds is sitting on one other public company’s board (from which he will be stepping down from at the beginning of 2020) and does not hold any executive position, which means that he satisfies the previous recommendations. But at the same time, Symonds remains on the board of three private companies: Proteus Digital Health Inc. (Chairman), Genomics England Limited (Chairman) and Rubius Therapeutics Inc. (Non-Executive Director). Despite the fact that he’s satisfying all guidelines, we can question if his agenda will allow him to dedicate the optimal amount of time for all the changes GSK is about to face.

As a conclusion, we can obviously always find a rational explanation to Hampton’s resignation and highlight the benefits of Symonds’ arrival. But at the end of the day, we must remember everything Hampton has done since joining the company: he has replaced the CEO, has reorganized the Board of Directors and led one of the biggest corporate restructuring projects seen these past years.

What makes this resignation a big event, is that GSK is currently in a timeframe where it needs as much stability as possible on a management level. The massive projects that are being led rely on the company to be extra cautious with its many moving parts. Considering the time needed for the restructuring and demerger to be concluded, we can think Hampton should have ideally stayed until the very end and then recruited a board for each entity.

All the reasons lead to thinking of the possibility of activities being overshadowed to keep investors from worrying. However, GSK has been clear about the fact that Hampton decided to leave once the Pfizer deal was announced. There may never be light over the other possible reasons that pushed Hampton to resign.

For more information regarding how CGLytics’ deep, global data set and unparalleled analytical screening tools can potentially help you make better decisions, click here.

About the Author

Amine Chehab: European Research Analyst

Amine completed his Master’s degree in International Financial Analysis at INSEEC Bordeaux, France. As part of his studies, he also attended the University of California, Riverside as an exchange student. Previously, he gained experience in the field of finance as a Finance Business Analyst and Financial consultant. Most recently he worked as a Credit Manager Assistant.

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Correcting Founder’s Syndrome: Executive Compensation Practices at Ralph Lauren

Ahead of the Ralph Lauren AGM, CGLytics looks at how CEO pay has changed since the founder’s exit, and how the nominations change the board composition.

Ralph Lauren Corporation, a global leader of premium lifestyle products, is scheduled to hold its 2019 Annual General Meeting of Shareholders (AGM) on August 1, 2019. Shareholders attending the AGM will vote on the following resolutions:

  • The election of 4 directors to serve until the 2020 Annual General Meeting of Shareholders;
  • The ratification of the appointment of Ernst & Young LLP as the Company’s independent registered public accounting firm for the fiscal year ending March 28, 2020;
  • The approval, on an advisory basis, the compensation of the Company’s named executive officers and the Company’s compensation philosophy, policies, and practices;
  • The adoption of the Company’s 2019 Long-Term Stock Incentive Plan.

 

Election of Directors:

Ralph Lauren has two classes of directors, Class A and Class B. At the upcoming AGM, four Class A directors will be proposed for election: Frank A. Bennack, Joel L. Fleishman, Michael A. George, and Hubert Joly. We note that in 2018, Ralph Lauren increased the size of its Board with the appointment of three new directors, namely Michael A. George, Angela Ahrendts, and Linda Findley Kozlowski, ostensibly to expand the Board’s “diversity of skills and experiences”. These three directors bring to the Board Leadership, Executive, and Industry/Sector expertise, with Michael A. George and Linda Findley Kozlowski being active CEOs in two retail companies and Angela Ahrendts being a former executive of Apple, Burberry Group plc and Kate Spade & Company. In terms of skills, the three individuals bring about Marketing, Sales and Operations knowledge. Nevertheless, the Board still appears to lack Technology and Financial expertise.

However, in addition to the diversity of skills that the addition of the new directors has brought to the board, the company also now maintains a gender diversity level of 50%, well above the market standard for the United States.

Source: CGLytics Data and Analytics

Executive Compensation:

The third resolution in the agenda is a shareholders’ advisory vote to approve the Company’s executive compensation.

After the Founder, Ralph Lauren, stepped down from his position as CEO, Ralph Lauren has gone through two CEO changes, with Stefan Larsson serving from November 2015 to May 2017, and Patrice Louvet serving since July 2017. As can be seen from the absolute comparison chart generated by CGLytics’ Pay for Performance module, there appears to be a misalignment between CEO compensation and one-year total shareholder return between 2008 and 2015. However, it appears that this misalignment has reduced since Mr. Lauren left the position of CEO. Furthermore, we also see that the total realized compensation for the CEO thereafter has been reduced significantly.

Source: CGLytics' P4P Modeler

CGLytics’ data and analytics are trusted and used worldwide by Glass Lewis, the leading independent proxy advisor, as a basis for their research on companies

CEO Compensation Package Breakdown

Historically, the CEO’s compensation package has primarily focused on his STI opportunity (between 2009 and 2012). However, since then, the CEOs compensation package breakdown has shifted towards long-terms incentives, which now form a greater component of the CEO’s compensation package.

Additionally, in 2017 the performance measures of LTI grants shifted from 3-year Cumulative Operating Margin and Operating Margin to 3-year Cumulative Return on Invested Capital (ROIC) and 3-year Relative Total Shareholder Return (TSR) in 2018. Ralph Lauren also added Global digital revenue as a new measure for STI grants, a modifying KPI that could result in an “adjustment of bonuses upwards or downwards by 10%.”

Source: CGLytics' P4P Modeler

Relative Positioning

In comparison to Ralph Lauren’s own disclosed peer goup, the Company’s CEO pay appears now to be line with its peers. Additionally, when reviewing the company’s relative positioning among its peers, there also appears to be a pay for performance alignment between Ralph Lauren’s 3-year TSR and compensation paid to its CEO.

RalphLauren4
Source: CGLytics' P4P Modeler

Ralph Lauren also proposes adopting a 2019 Long-Term Stock Incentive Plan, under which the Company awards equity compensation to executive officers, to replace the current Ralph Lauren Corporation 2010 Amended and Restated Long-Term Stock Incentive Plan. Under the new plan, LTI awards will be determined based on 3-year Cumulative Return on Invested Capital (ROIC) and 3-year Relative Total Shareholder Return (TSR).

Overall, we find that although the company has seen shifts in executive leadership over the past few years after Mr. Lauren left the reigns of the company to his successor, we also find that the company’s executive compensation programs have fallen more in line with market norms, correcting a former pay for performance misalignment that extended under Mr. Lauren’s leadership.

To learn how companies can become proactive and support modern governance decision-making, with access to the same insights as activist investors and proxy advisors, click here.

Sources

CGLYTICS DATA AND ANALYTICS   RALPH LAUREN 2019 PROXY STATEMENT

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CSR Limited: Strike One on Remuneration Report

At the CSR Limited AGM in June 2019, the remuneration report received 34% of votes cast against which constitutes a first strike for the purposes of the corporations ACT 2001. CGLytics looks at the alignment of pay against performance and some of the key drivers behind the investor response.

CSR Limited, a major Australian industrial company held its Annual General Meeting on June 26, 2019. The board presented three ordinary resolutions and one special resolution to its shareholders. Included in the ordinary business proposal was to consider the re-election of non-executive director, Matthew Quinn, this year. The company also sought to receive shareholders’ support for the financial report, the director’s report and the auditor’s report for the financial year. Another ordinary resolution that was proposed by the board was to approve and adopt the remuneration report for the financial year ended March 31, 2019.

For the special resolution, the board advised shareholders to consider the granting of long-term incentives for Julie Coates, who will be taking up the position of managing director this September 2019.

The board’s expertise ahead of the AGM

CSR’s corporate governance states that the company seeks to maintain a board composed of directors that have a range of collective skills and experience to ensure corporate development. CSR also elaborates that it considers individuals that are highly-experienced in manufacturing, finance, law and other sectors that the company seeks to pursue in the future.

CSR Board Skills Matrix
Source: CGLytics Data and Analytics

Using the Board Expertise functionality of CGLytics’ platform, we were able to gain insight on the current skills of the members of the board. The Skills Matrix functionality also aids companies to identify any skills gaps in its current matrix. For CSR, of the six directors currently sitting on the board, the graph shows that CSR’s strongest expertise is Finance. The second strongest suits of expertise include Corporate Development, Operations, Project Management and Sales. One area where the company is missing a director with specific expertise is in Governance. The company also lacks directors that have any relevant company Industry and Sector experience. However, the upcoming appointment of a new managing director on September 2019, Julie Coates, may be able to alleviate this missing element to the board’s skill set.

Julie Coates’ Expertise from the CGLytics platform

Board Expertise

Pay for Performance

Another board resolution the company was seeking approval on was the remuneration report and financial report. CSR promotes consistency in the remuneration of senior executives by ensuring that the company and individual performance are aligned with their incentives. The company focuses on compensation that generates long-term value for senior executives. The company only uses two performance criteria in the determination of executive compensation: Total Shareholder Return (TSR) and Earnings Per Share (EPS) for the long-term incentive plan in which both have equal weight of 50 percent.

The board states that absolute TSR instead of relative TSR helps align shareholder interests by keeping senior executives focused on increasing earnings and share price. On the other hand, the EPS helps measure the continued growth in earnings of the company and is parallel to the interests of the shareholders.

The CGlytics Absolute Positioning tool allows insight into the relationship between the two performance conditions and the Managing Director’s granted compensation from 2013 to 2018. As indicated in the graph below, there exists significant volatility in the movements of all performance criteria used in the determination of executive pay: TSR and EPS. From 2015 to 2016, CEO pay, EPS and TSR increased. The latter especially increased by 91.6%. From 2017 to 2018, CEO pay increased by 48% and TSR fell by 46.5%.

CSR CEO pay vs EPS and TSR
Source: CGLytics Data and Analytics

CGLytics’ data and analytics are trusted and used worldwide by Glass Lewis, the leading independent proxy advisor, as a basis for their research on companies. Find out more.

The CGLytics Relative Positioning Pay for Performance Evaluation tool compares CSR’s CEO compensation with that of the company’s own peer group against the peer group’s three-year TSR. The Pay for Performance evaluation demonstrates that CSR’s Total Realized Compensation appears misaligned compared to its peers. The company’s Total Realized Pay ranks above median at 69th percentile while three-year TSR ranks in the 15th percentile.

Source: CGLytics Data and Analytics

Granting of Rights

In the Annual report for the financial year ended March 31, 2019, CSR disclosed that it developed a performance-related pay which includes both the Short-Term Incentive (STI) and Long-Term Incentive (LTI) plans, both of which are measured against performance conditions.

The plan would utilize the same performance criteria as mentioned above: TSR and Earning Per Share (EPS) over a three-year performance period (April 1, 2019- March 31, 2022) in financial year-end 2020. The two performance conditions will be weighted at 50 per cent of the overall grant.

The board uses an annual growth rate of 14 percent for 75 percent vesting and an 18 percent stretch for a full vesting of rights for the TSR condition. The board also uses a compound growth rate of 5 percent target for a 50 percent vesting and 10 percent stretch for a 100 percent vesting for EPS condition. There was no change in the hurdles applied in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

The board is seeking for the granting of 360,241 performance rights for Julie Coates, the newly appointed managing director. The amount is pro-rata of her one-year long-term incentive remuneration based on her date of appointment on September 2, 2019. The board also proposes that Ms. Coates is entitled to a maximum LTI award of up to 120 percent of her total fixed remuneration.

Highlights of the AGM

At the AGM which took place on June 26, 2019, all the resolutions were passed as ordinary resolutions. However, as suggest in the potential Pay For Performance misalignment demonstrated above, the remuneration report received 34% of votes cast against which constitutes a first strike for the purposes of the corporations ACT 2001.

CGLytics offers the broadest, up to date global data set and powerful benchmarking tools to conduct comprehensive analysis for executive compensation decisions and risk oversight. CGLytics is Glass Lewis’ source for global compensation data and analytics. These analytics power Glass Lewis’ voting recommendations in both their proxy papers and their custom policy engine service.

For more information on how CGLytics’ can support modern governance decision-making and potentially identify any areas of risk, click here.

 

Sources:

CGLYTICS DATA AND ANALYTICS

CSR LTD 2019 NOTICE OF MEETING

CSR LIMITED ANNUAL REPORT

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Facebook: Increasing Shareholder Pressure Exerted on Zuckerberg’s Role as Chairman

In this article, CGLytics examines the increasing pressure on Facebook to split the roles of Chair and CEO from founder Mark Zuckerberg and the implications on the company’s future.

Mark Zuckerberg has been Chief Executive Officer of Facebook, Inc. since he founded the company in 2004 and has held the combined position of CEO/Chair since the Company’s IPO in 2012. Shareholders have increasingly voiced their concerns regarding the combination of both roles. Those opposing the combined CEO/Chair position state that it gives Zuckerberg too much control over the company, where minority shareholders already have very little influence. Founder Mark Zuckerberg controls over 51% of the vote although he owns only 13% of the economic value of the firm. Additionally, headlines surround the billionaire founder, as Zuckerberg again failed to address a committee of international lawmakers who are amid an investigation into Facebook’s disinformation, antitrust, and privacy scandals.

Shareholders Try to Force Zuckerberg’s Hand…Again

In light of the above, several investors have banded together and filed multiple shareholder proposals for consideration at the company’s 2019 AGM, which took place on May 30th, 2019, aimed to alleviate their concerns over Zuckerberg’s influence and lack of oversight of the company. Of interest were proposal five and six filed.

Proposal Five: Proposed primarily by NorthStar Asset Management, in conjunction with other groups of shareholders, requesting that each share be given an equal vote. Currently, Class B shares (controlled by Zuckerberg and a small group of others) have 10 times the voting power of Class A shares. They continued in their supporting statement noting “since July 2018, Facebook value dropped as much as 40% due to Management and Board decisions that have not protected shareholder value. By allowing unequal voting power, our company takes public shareholder money but does not provide us an equal voice in our company’s governance…”

Proposal Six: Recommended that the Chair of the Board of Directors operates as an Independent Member of the Board. The supporting statement offers that there exists no form of checks and balances in order to limit Mr. Zuckerberg’s power. The statement continues, “we believe this weakens Facebook’s governance and oversight of management. Selecting an independent Chair would free the CEO to focus on managing the Company and enable the Chairperson to focus on oversight and strategic guidance.” It’s of importance to note that nearly 60% of the S&P 1500 has separated the roles of Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson as of April 2018. This proposal received the public support of both the Council of Institutional Investors (CII), as well as Trillium Asset Management.

Unsurprisingly, the Board of Directors has concluded with a recommendation to vote against all stockholder proposals mentioned above. However, the requests made through these proposals heavily resemble several that have been proposed in past years.

CGLytics has taken a deeper look into Facebook’s board composition and effectiveness when compared to all other companies in the US market. Utilizing CGLytics’ governance data and analytics in the specialized platform it was discovered that the key area where the company is underperforming, compared to the sector average, lies primarily in the combination of the role of CEO and Chairman.

Facebook Effectiveness Attributes
Source: CGLytics’ board effectiveness data and analysis

The zero score for the CEO/Chair criterion is in sync with the concerns of the shareholders who are seeking the dissolution of the combined position. This is also supported from the NYSE Stewardship guidelines, where the separation of the CEO/Chair position is required. However, taking all other factors into consideration, Facebook’s board composition and effectiveness is rated ‘Very Good’ and higher than the sector average. Even though the CEO/Chair combination has a score of 0, the majority of the other effectiveness attributes rank above the sector average.

The effectiveness attributes in the chart above are based on the company in question’s governance practices compared to the corporate governance code of the market in which it is primarily based (in this instance, the NYSE stewardship guidelines). The thresholds above are set by empirical research performed by CGLytics. Each attribute receives a score from 0 to 100, with a score of 100 reflecting the best governance practices.

The health score of Facebook and of the market is calculated as the average scoring of all of the effectiveness attributes, respectively. Facebook has an average score of 76, with three effectiveness attributes (Nationality Dispersion, Board Independence and CEO/Chair combined) falling under 60, two effectiveness attribute (Gender Equality, Director Interlocks) at 60 points, and the rest of the effectiveness attributes at 100 points.

Source: CGLytics’

Given the repeated failure of such proposals at the company’s most recent AGM, the future of Facebook seems to remain in the hands of Mark Zuckerberg. It comes as no surprise that these proposals would have similar results as those at previous AGMs, given Zuckerberg’s voting power at the firm. However, the increasing regularity of these types of proposals have been making headlines around the company’s governance structure and posing serious questions to the general public regarding Zuckerberg’s current and future role at the company.

Corporate boards and executive teams increasingly require a broader range of analytical tools to identify potential areas of reputational risk, even for controlled companies, which could make them the object of activist campaigns. For more information regarding how CGLytics’ deep, global data set and unparalleled analytical screening tools can potentially help you identify these areas of risk, click here.

CGLytics offers the broadest, up to date global data set and powerful benchmarking tools to conduct comprehensive analysis for executive compensation decisions and risk oversight. CGLytics is Glass Lewis’ source for global compensation data and analytics. These analytics power Glass Lewis’ voting recommendations in both their proxy papers and their custom policy engine service.

Sources

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Debenhams: The Fall of a High Street Chain

Following the entry into administration of Debenhams, CGLytics takes a look at some of the key governance analytics, and how they could have been indicators that change was needed

Debenhams is a well-known British multinational retailer which operates primarily through its numerous department stores in the United Kingdom and Ireland with franchise stores in other countries. The company was founded in the eighteenth century as a single store in London. On April 9, 2019, Debenhams went into a pre-pack administration deal in which the company was handed over to hedge fund lenders. As a result, equity holders like SportsDirect, the company’s biggest shareholder, saw their value wiped out.

Timeline of a Potential Takeover

In January 2014, Mike Ashley surprised the market by acquiring a 4.63% stake in the then struggling retailer. Despite the value of his equity dropping by 8% in January 2015, Ashley increased his stake in the company to 21% in August 2017. Two months later in October Debenhams announced that their profit dropped 44%. This decrease was largely due to the costs incurred from the implementation of a new turnaround strategy. In January 2018, the woes of the company continued when they issued a shock profit warning after weak Christmas sales and a failure to entice shoppers with cut-price goods. The market responded, and the company’s share price decreased by as much as 20%, wiping almost GBP 70m off its market value. In March 2018, Mike Ashley increased his stake to 29.7%. The move sparked takeover conjecture as a stake of more than 30% requires the launch a formal takeover bid.

Debenhams announced another profit warning in June 2018 (the third in a row for the year 2018) and then announced plans to shut down up to 50 of its of its under-performing stores over the next three to five years, putting around 4,000 jobs at risk.

With this turn of events, then-CEO Sergio Bucher and Chairman Ian Cheshire would be forced to step down from their respective offices following an activist campaign led by Michael Ashley. At the company’s AGM on December 10, 2018, the CEO had only 44.15% of support for his re-election, while the re-election of the Chairman received a similarly low level of support at 43%. The Board however asked Sergio to stay on as CEO but not as a director, serving as a blow to shareholders expectations.  In response Ashley launched a formal takeover bid which was designed to install himself as Debenham’s CEO. Most interestingly, his efforts were warded off by bondholders who handed the firm a GBP 40m lifeline. The overdraft facility from its banks and bondholders proved useful to pay its onerous quarterly rent bill and give it some much needed breathing space.

Financials sourced from CGLytics performance data

The company and its directors went into advanced talks with its lenders over a GBP 150m bailout, as a move to fend off Ashley’s offers. SportsDirect offered Debenhams an alternate GBP 150m deal if the fashion house would issue five percent of new shares to the company and appoint Mr. Ashley as director and CEO.

The company however rejected the deal, putting itself into administration on April 9, 2019.

Possible reasons for entry into administration

Lack of a clear strategy: Debenhams had about 165 stores in the United Kingdom, a seemingly large number at a time when its sales were falling and costs were rising. The company had previously outlined plans to close 10 loss-making stores within five years as its finances continued to deteriorate. Increasing consumer preference for online shopping also dealt a huge blow to the company’s overall strategy.

Aging Product Line: The retailer is best known for the Designers at Debenhams collections created over the past two decades by designers including Jasper Conran and Julien Macdonald. Some brands, including Betty Jackson, have been discontinued because they had become dated; however, replacement fashion ranges have so far lacked pulling power as shoppers take a cautious approach to spending as the uncertainty created by Brexit continued. Other factors that led to the Company’s demise include being outsmarted by more agile competitors, failure to embrace change, and their tarnished brand image. This naturally raises the questions of how and why the company’s business strategy was allowed to deteriorate to such a detrimental degree.

Conflicts of Interest on Board: Utilizing CGlytics interlocks tool, it can be noted that before the shareholder rebellion at the 2018 AGM that witnessed significant opposition against the CEO and Chairman, there were two independent directors who sat on the boards of companies in competition with Debenhams. These individuals included Ian Cheshire and David Adams. Cheshire serves as the current chairman of Maisons Du Monde while David Adams also remains the current Senior Independent Director of Halfords Group Plc.

Source: CGLytics Data and Analytics

Using the skills matrix functionality available on the CGLytics platform, we see that in December 2018, the majority of company directors lacked Technology expertise. Only one member of the Board out of nine members held technology expertise. This reaffirms the previous notion that the company has failed to catch up with market trends, especially when tracking changes in consumer preference has become so heavily reliant on technology. Moreover, board members with key positions such as the Chairman, CEO, and the Senior Independent Director all lacked financial expertise, potentially suggesting that the company’s top leadership were unable to provide sufficient oversight of the company’s accounting procedures and financial health.

Source: CGLytics Data and Analytics

Lessons Learnt

The fall of Debenhams has shed light on how having the right skills set on the board can influence the strategy and ultimate direction and of a company. Corporate boards increasingly require a broader range of analytical tools to identify the skills gap of their members, potential overboarding and competing directorships. For more information regarding how CGLytics’ deep, global data set and unparalleled analytical screening tools can potentially help you identify these areas of risk, click here.

Sources:

CGLYTICS DATA AND ANALYTICS  FT  MSN

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Growing Expectations of Director Responsibilities and Evolving Attitudes Towards Overboarding

CGLytics takes a look at how the role of the board is changing, and how directors are having to rapidly become experts in a range of topics in which they have little to no previous experience.

Overboarding has been recognised as a potential governance issue for some time, with questions over the ability of directors to discharge their duties effectively if they are over-committed to more responsibilities than they have the capacity to manage. As scrutiny increases, this issue has become a greater focus for investors as directors face an ever-increasing set of new responsibilities for which they are expected to provide oversight.

Historically, the responsibilities of board members included participation in regularly scheduled management strategy reviews, often followed by robust debate of such strategy, reviewing of financial statements, assessments of enterprise and industry-specific risks, facing the companies at which they serve, as well as legal compliance issues. However, new threats from a variety of vectors are requiring directors to rapidly become experts in a range of topics in which they have little to no previous experience. Among these new areas of potential risk that boards are increasingly expected to address, we find the most pertinent topics to be:

  1. cybersecurity risks,
  2. the impact of disruptive technologies,
  3. board members’ increasing role in investor relations,
  4. competitive intelligence, and
  5. international business experience.

The ensemble of these new responsibilities requires corporate boards to assess the skills set requisite for its own composition in order to remain competitive in an increasingly fierce global environment. The expectations of this type of board accountability, known as “supergovernance”, assumes that board members are capable of peering around every corner in order to counter all possible threats to their company.

Balancing Act 

While investor-specific policies towards the maximum number of public boards on which a director should serve are not new, increasing responsibilities for board members are leading investors to re-evaluate their previous thresholds of overboarding. Most prominently, Vanguard, the world’s second largest asset manager, has recently publicly disclosed that its voting policy stipulates to vote against an executive director (defined as a Named Executive Officer who serves on the board at which they hold the role of executive) at any outside board at which they serve. Moreover, their updated overboarding voting policy also states that they will vote against any non-executive director who sits on more than four boards in total at all boards on which they serve.

Blackrock has taken a similar position in its 2019 U.S. voting policy, allowing non-CEO directors to hold a maximum of four directorships in total at public companies. However, Blackrock will still allow a public company CEO to serve on a total of two public boards, and currently makes no distinction in the U.S. between executive directors (other than the CEO) and non-executive directors in the total number of boards on which they may serve.

Taking Vanguard’s holdings of 4,861 companies across the U.S., Europe, Canada, Japan and Australia, the CGLytics research team performance an exercise utilizing CGLytics’ data and analytics platform to assess the potential impact of this new overboarding policy on Vanguard’s proxy voting activities. We find that, globally, the implementation of Vanguard’s new guidelines would potentially lead to fairly high levels of opposition, upwards of 23%, for NEO director nominees, who sit on boards outside of the company at which they currently serve as an executive.

Source: CGLytics Data and Analytics

An examination of the current composition of Vanguard’s top 25 holdings also reveals that the implementation of their new guidelines will have an even sharper increase in potential votes against NEOs due to overboarding than during the hypothetical exercise across the full universe of Vanguard’s holdings.

Source: CGLytics Data and Analytics

Not Such a Hard Line

While such an approach may appear rather restrictive for corporate directors and many institutional investors alike, some investors mitigate the perceived severity of this approach by indicating that they will evaluate director appointees who fall outside their overboarding thresholds on a case-by-case basis. Moreover, the language included in their voting policies also makes certain exceptions should the director nominee indicate that she/he will step down from one of the outside boards on which he/she serves within a certain period after their election. Investor engagement also provides corporate directors some leeway, as the issuer-investor dialogue may allow one-off exceptions from opposition to a potentially overboarded director’s election based on the outcome of the engagement.

Finally, the question is raised as to whether these lowered thresholds might benefit corporate board members? Long gone are the days when the expectations for the role of corporate director would be to approve management’s agenda for the company, with cursory corporate oversight capacity. Due to the increasing pressure that board members face in their oversight duties, reducing the number of acceptable directorships from the investor community might provide some breathing room for directors to fully engage in their responsibilities as director. This extra breathing room could potentially allow them to better educate themselves about emerging threats facing the companies on which they serve.

Conversely, the increasing expectations and responsibilities placed on corporate boards often spring directly from the investor community itself. The growing momentum within the investor community implies and often explicitly expects directors to be fully educated on enterprise and material industry risks, as well fully focused on their responsibilities as board members in order to maximize the value of their investments.

As the balancing act between these two perspectives plays out, the issue of potential overboarding for any individual director may prove not to be black or white, but a distinction between various levels of grey. In order to help investors, corporate boards, and executive alike to distinguish between these various shades, CGLytics offers an extensive database with smart analytical tools, to easily screen for potentially overboarded directors. Being able to instantly view the board composition, and that of peers, provides insights into areas of governance practices that may pose a potential risk. In addition, CGLytics’ provides skills matrices to highlight skills and expertise strengths and shortages, director interlocks and smart relationship mapping tools to leverage networking opportunities: all in the one system.

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Tesla: a lesson in lion taming

In this article, CGLytics takes a look at the governance of Tesla and the measures in place to ensure consistent shareholder engagement.

Tesla’s IPO in June 2010, focused primarily on the variety of visions offered by founder, current CEO, and largest shareholder, Elon Musk. However, over the previous few years Musk’s vision has increasingly become overshadowed by the growing tensions regarding his comments on social media and mounting frustration among Tesla’s investor base.

In August 2018 Mr. Musk proposed via Twitter to take the company private at a volatile stock price of USD 420 after growing frustration with his shareholders, primarily those engaged in short-selling Tesla stock. Following this tweet, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) then accused Musk of misleading shareholders, an action that eventually cost Musk USD 20 million in fines, as well as his position as Chairman of the Board.

During the first quarter of 2019, the SEC claimed Musk violated the court settlement via his statements on Twitter, which required him to receive board approval before making any public statements that may potentially effect Tesla’s stock price. This drama played out over March and into May 2019. However, a U.S. Federal judge recently held that Musk was not in contempt of court following the tweet, and approved a settlement between Musk and the SEC. The details of this settlement outline that Musk must now seek pre-approval from a securities lawyer for the content presented by Musk in social media, as well as his communications during investor calls.

Turnaround

Earlier in 2019, Musk informed reporters that he did not expect Tesla to post a profit in Q1 2019, even though the company has only experienced two profitable quarters since going public. In a potential reaction to this, Tesla has switched its market strategy and is repositioning itself to appeal to mass affordability, dropping prices on certain models to as low as USD 30,000. The company is also planning to raise funding through both debt and equity issuances, with plans to sell 3.1 million shares, with Musk himself buying 102,880 shares at a total of USD 25m.

In addition to the change in business strategy and fundraising efforts, Tesla recently announced a reduction in the size of its board from 11 members to seven. Consequently, Brad Buss, Antonio Gracias, Stephen Jurvetson, and Linda Johnson Rice will not seek re-election at the 2019 and 2020 AGMs. The reduction has been positioned as a measure to increase the board’s agility and efficiency.

A re-orientation of the company’s executive compensation practices also might have had an impact on the change in the company’s business strategy. According to CGLytics corporate governance data, since going public in 2010, Musk only received stock-based awards, with the first such award taking place in 2012. In 2012 the Board of Directors okayed the “2012 CEO Grant” to Musk, approving the purchase of five percent of the outstanding common stock, or more than five million shares. These shares consisted of ten vesting periods, implemented in order to incentivize Mr. Musk’s future performance. However, the performance criteria for this plan were limited to increases in market capitalisation and developmental milestones for the company’s Model X and Model 3 production. Diving further into the company’s 2017 financials shows Mr. Musk’s approximately 6.7 million shares realised a value of USD 1.34 billion.

The most recent equity award to Mr. Musk, the “2018 CEO Performance Award”, parallels the 2012 grant in many ways. The award is structured with a 10-year maximum term stock option to purchase 20,264,042 shares of common stock, divided equally among 12 separate tranches that are each equivalent to one percent of the issued and outstanding shares of Tesla’s common stock at the time of grant. However, this grant has several new twists to greater align Musk’s varieties of vision and investors’ expectations of economic returns from Tesla. Performance criteria for the grant continue to require increases in the company’s market capitalisation, but the company has also added concrete measures of increasing Revenue and Adjusted EBITDA for the awards to fully vest.

CGLytics’ executive compensation data and relative pay for performance modeler (chart displayed below) shows that, following the redesign of the company’s CEO performance-based awards in January 2018, growth in Tesla’s EBITDA appears to be steeply on the rise compared to  the change in the median EBITDA of S&P 500 companies.

Source: CGLytics Data and Analytics
Year Total realised pay
[Tesla, Inc.] (USD)
Total realised pay
(median) [S&P 500] (USD)
2012 10.620.552
2013 33.280 10.385.744
2014 52.138 12.862.746
2015 37.584 11.746.158
2016 1.340.149.856 11.340.365
2017 49.920 13.658.883
2018 56.380 11.829.150

We also see an almost identical positioning of Tesla’s growth in Revenue and EBITDA when compared to its sector peers with market caps between USD 25 and 100b.

Selected Comparator Peer Group for Tesla
Bayerische Motoren Werke Aktiengesellschaft (BMW)
Bridgestone Corporation
Continental Aktiengesellschaft
Daimler AG
DENSO Corporation
Ford Motor Company
General Motors Company
Honda Motor Co., Ltd.
Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.
Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft
Year Total realised pay 
[Tesla, Inc.] (USD)
Total realised pay (median) 
[Tesla Peers] (USD)
2012 0 11.079.766
2013 33.280 9.918.984
2014 52.138 8.927.229
2015 37.584 10.021.969
2016 1.340.149.856 12.071.052
2017 49.920 10.845.296
2018 56.380 7.062.198

Despite the recent turnaround instituted at Tesla, questions do remain regarding Musk’s ability to mollify his investor base, remain in good standing with the SEC, give Tesla his full focus, and ultimately to meet the expectations of running a public corporation: economic and otherwise. Shareholders and board members alike have been on a wild ride with Tesla, and the future seems to appear just as wild, but with (hopefully) fewer bumps in the road.

Sources:  CGLytics, CNBC    THE WASHINGTON POST    TESLA COMPANY WEBSITE    FOX BUSINESS

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The case of Superdry: The dynamics of corporate governance and equity control

CGLytics reviews the recent upheaval of the Superdry board, and how these developments have set an unprecedented case in Corporate Governance.

Superdry was founded from a creative partnership between entrepreneurs Julian Dunkerton and James Holder in Cheltenham, UK in 2003. From an initial collection of five t-shirts, which included the iconic Osaka 6 worn by British superstar David Beckham, the company has grown to offer seasonal collections comprising thousands of items and over 500 distinctive logos. Currently, they represent a global community and have developed a cult celebrity following. It is currently a constituent of the FTSE 250, becoming one of the biggest fashion retail success stories in recent times.

2014 – Change for Growth

In October 2014, the company announced the appointment of Euan Sutherland as their new CEO, replacing founder of the company Julian Dunkerton. Julian stayed on as a Brand Director of Superdry. At the time, the company said that as a business with huge growth opportunities, the need for an experienced CEO was paramount. Euan became the preferred choice as he knew the business well, having been a Non-Executive Director since 2012, and was instrumental in implementing and driving a five-year global strategy that delivered more of the incredible growth that Superdry has become renowned for.  The company’s financial success is well documented. From 2012 to 2019, the company’s revenue grew from GBP 329M to GBP 886M while net income grew from GBP 31M to GBP 63M. For share price growth however, the company experienced a sharp dip from GBP 19.03 in 2017 to GBP 4.68 in 2018. (Year-end)

In March 2018, it was announced that Julian was to step down as a director from the Board. In January 2018, Mr. Dunkerton took advantage of Superdry’s impressive stock market performance as shares rose to a five-year high in December and sold part of his stake, making almost GBP 18m. However, he remained the largest shareholder, with control of about 19% in the company. After his departure, the Board comprised of 9 members including 2 women forming about 22% of the Board composition. Just before the General Meeting, the Board comprised of 8 directors and proportion of women of the Board therefore increased to 25%.

2018 – Tensions Surface

In December 2018, Julian censured the business model of the company he cofounded and launched a campaign to return to the company. In an unusual intrusion, Dunkerton disapproved the firm’s business model in comments to the Liberum analyst Wayne Brown, a former head of investor relations at Superdry. The retail entrepreneur stated in the note that he quit the company’s board in March 2018 because he could not “put his name to the strategy”. In another comment to the BBC, Dunkerton said that he’s willing to return to the company “in any capacity” to turn the company around.

Following growing tension between Julian and the Board, the Board announced a general meeting for April 2, 2019 to decide whether the former should be reinstated to the Board. The Board unanimously asked Shareholders to vote against the return of Julian Dunkerton and against the appointment of Boohoo Chairman Peter Williams, which Julian was seeking to bring to the Board as a chairman to overthrow the current. The Board listed various reasons for their decision among which they stated that Mr. Dunkerton’s return would have damaging business impacts because his views have not evolved with the needs of an increasingly international multi-channel brand business. The Board also added that his return will be divisive and distract from the delivery of the Global Digital Brand strategy. For Mr. Williams, the Board said that though he is being nominated as an Independent Director, they cannot trust the transparency of the action because it is not clear if he’s being nominated to serve the interests of Mr. Dunkerton and James Holder; and (ii) is NOT INDEPENDENT and does not represent the interests of all shareholders equally. Again, his appointment will be in a manner that which circumvents good corporate governance and the established policies and procedures of the Company.

2019 – Dunkerton Returns

The outcome of the meeting was quite different from the Board’s recommendation as shareholders voted to elect Julian to the Board by 51.15%. Peter Williams was also elected to the Board by 51.15%. This subsequently led to the resignation of then Chairman Peter Bamford, CEO Euan Sutherland, Chief Financial Officer Edward Barker and Independent Director Penelope Hughes. Subsequently, Peter Williams was appointed Chairman and Dunkerton, interim CEO. With the current composition of the Board, women form only 14% of the Board, a drop from the initial female composition of 25% before the disruptions. Dennis Millard, Minnow Powell, Sarah Wood and John Smith who are all Non-Executive Directors have also given three months’ notice and will stand down as Directors on July 1, 2019.

The board expertise diagrams, produced directly from data and analytics in CGLytics’ platform, show Superdry’s board expertise matrix before and after the mass resignations that happened after the April 2nd 2019 General Meeting. The information used for producing CGLytics’ expertise and skills matrices in the SaaS offering is standardized and applied consistency to more than 5,500 companies globally for easy comparison, analysis and benchmarking of boards composition.

It is evident, from CGLytics’ Board Expertise matrix, that the expertise of the board has reduced since the resignations of Directors. Before their General Meeting in April 2019, 25% of the Board had Technology expertise; with the current Board composition, approximately 14% of the Board has Technology expertise. With today’s retail business climate, the connection and interaction between traditional stores and the internet is fundamental to the growth of businesses in this sector. With the company’s struggling performance over the years, having directors with technology expertise could bring another dimension to the company’s strategy with adapting to changing customer needs and preferences as the it solidify itself as a “global digital brand”.

Another interesting insight is that after the resignations there is now no Executive board member who has financial expertise, however some of the non-Executive board members do including the new Chairman, Peter Williams. Previously Superdry’s CFO had a seat on the board, which may have an impact on the financial decision-making.

The board expertise diagrams, produced directly from data and analytics in CGLytics’ platform, show Superdry’s board expertise matrix before and after the mass resignations that happened after the April 2nd 2019 General Meeting. The information used for producing CGLytics’ expertise and skills matrices in the SaaS offering is standardized and applied consistency to more than 5,500 companies globally for easy comparison, analysis and benchmarking of boards composition.

Before the General Meeting of the company, approximately 75% of the Board served on 8 other listed companies’ Boards in total, compared to 57% of the current Board members holding 6 other seats on listed Boards. Again, of these, the new Chairman of the Board, Peter Williams, serves on three other listed Boards including one other chairmanship position. Though he is not considered overboarded according to the UK corporate Governance code, there may be some reservations over his ability to discharge his duties given his other time commitments. The composition of the Board before the General Meeting also had directors who served on two other Boards; these includes the former chairman of the Board Peter Bamford and Penelope Hughes, who is also the current chair of Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holding Plc.


Lessons learnt and key takeaways from Superdry:

The Superdry development has shed light on how large shareholders influence voting outcomes. Specifically, Julian Dunkerton and his co-founder who owns about 28.1% between them could influence the resolution to change the direction of the company. According to the statement released by the company after the general meeting, 74% of shareholders other than Julian and James have voted against the resolutions. Two big institutional shareholders – Investec and Schroders, which together control about 10% of the shares also supported Mr. Dunkerton’s return.

But the company’s second largest shareholder, Aberdeen Asset Management, sided with Superdry management, and influential investor advisory firms PIRC and Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) had both recommended that shareholders should reject Mr. Dunkerton’s re-election. What cannot be ignored is that this development has set an unprecedented case in Corporate Governance.

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