City grandee Rudd faces 'overboarding' backlash in Meggitt vote
25 April 2018, 11:59
Sir Nigel Rudd, one of Britain's leading industrialists, will this week suffer a major shareholder rebellion at the aerospace engineering group Meggitt amid a row over his portfolio of corporate chairmanships.
Sky News has learnt that up to one third of Meggitt's shareholders are expected to withhold support for Sir Nigel's re-election as the company's chairman at its annual general meeting on Thursday.
The revolt will be the latest to stem from "overboarding" concerns raised by groups which advise investors how to cast their votes at AGMs.
In a report to clients which has been seen by Sky News, Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) said Sir Nigel's three other public company chairman roles were"likely to undermine [his] ability to adequately fulfil his role as chairman of Meggitt plc".
Agencies such as ISS typically influence the voting decisions of funds holding roughly 25% of the shares of major London-listed companies.
One leading institutional investor said they expected Sir Nigel to be hit by substantial opposition but questioned whether the "one-size-fits-all" advice issued by shareholder advisers was appropriate.
A former deputy chairman of Barclays, Sir Nigel has held some of the biggest jobs in British business, including chairing the boards of Heathrow Airport Holdings and the £2.5bn Business Growth Fund backed by the UK's major high street banks.
As the chairman of companies such as Boots and Pilkington, the glassmaker, Sir Nigel earned a reputation for extracting big prices from corporate suitors.
He holds three other listed company chairmanships - at BBA Aviation, Johannesburg-listed Sappi and AIM-listed Destiny Pharma - which is in excess of the ISS guideline that individuals should chair no more than two publicly traded businesses.
Paradoxically, ISS is said to recommend that shareholders abstain on, rather than vote against, Sir Nigel's re-election at BBA on the grounds that he has overseen significant executive changes there in recent months.
The issue of "overboarding" has become increasingly prominent in recent months as shareholder advisers focus on it as a red flag for re-electing board members.
London-listed companies including SSP, the owner of Upper Crust travel food concessions, have been caught in the crosshairs of such concerns.
Last year, Paul Walsh, the former Diageo boss, withdrew his plan to seek re-election to the board of HSBC Holdings after "overboarding" warnings from proxy advisers.
Neither Meggitt nor Sir Nigel could be reached for comment on Wednesday.
(c) Sky News 2018: City grandee Rudd faces 'overboarding' backlash in Meggitt vote