Sweett strikes back at former chairman’s plot to take control

Aaron Morby 11 years ago
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Sweett Group has launched a fierce attack against a plot by former chairman Frances Ives to return to take control of the cost consultant.

Ives has pledged to quadruple Sweett’s share price within the next four years in an attempt to woo shareholders.

The former chairman, who retains a 4% stake in Sweett Group, claims the business has lost its way after posting its first ever loss in in the year to March 2012.

This morning the Sweett Group board launched a robust defence of claims and announced a general meeting would be held on 9 May to vote on a resolution to replace non-executive chairman Michael Henderson with Ives.

Henderson, 74, is due to retire in August.

A statement from the company said: “The board believes Francis Ives is motivated by emotion and that he wants his old job back.

It claimed that Ives move was a clear breach of best practice governance and argued Ives was not the right person to lead the group.

The board dismissed as false claims that it is excessively indebted to its bankers and had lost senior talent at the firm.

Nicholas Woollacott, Sweett senior independent director, said: “The recent announcements of new commissions spread across the group’s regions and sectors, as well as the record order book and robust interim results, give the board confidence in its current team, strategy and in the outlook for the Group.

“Not only has Francis Ives failed to articulate a cohesive strategy, he has also made clear his desire to return to the Group as Executive Chairman, demonstrating an attitude towards corporate governance which is not consistent with the standards expected of a publicly quoted company.

“Michael Henderson has the board’s unequivocal support in his role as non-executive chairman and has been instrumental in the group’s development into the diverse and global business that it has become in recent years.”

The board said it had amassed letters of intent from 41.4% of shareholders to reject all resolutions.

Ives leads a group of disaffected shareholders representing over 14% of the company.

He said: “I had hoped that Michael would have supported me in taking over from him as he is stepping down in a few months anyway, but I suspect he wants to hand it on to a non-cognate, non-executive who hasn’t spent his career in this industry as I have.

“I was disappointed that while he agreed with me about many of the challenges facing the company, he had no plans to address these issues.

“The only tangible solution put forward was to pay-down some of the company’s debt by selling its PFI investments, but that particular cupboard is now bare.”

“The company’s difficulties can be overcome. Sweett Group is a great business with great people and great clients, but if the right decisions are to be made the board has to recognise the real position that the company is in.”

Ives, 64, left the company in September 2010 in a dispute over the appointment of a new board member, which he opposed.

One year later the new member was asked to leave the company for undisclosed reasons.

Ives has pledged to implement an immediate financial and strategic review of the business and put proposals to shareholders within 3 months.

 

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