Superdry founder Julian Dunkerton believes he has won the support of two key shareholders in his bid to get back into the boardroom at the ailing fashion retailer next week.
Investec and Schroders, which together control just under 9% of Superdry, are both understood to be ready to back the reappointment of Dunkerton as a director.
Dunkerton, who owns 18% of Superdry, stepped down last March in a row over strategy. The shares have collapsed from £20 to 544p since January 2018 and he now wants to return to oversee a turnaround.
The company, known for its Japanese-inspired graphic T-shirts, went into sharp decline after a series of profit warnings which it has blamed on poor product selection, partly overseen by Dunkerton.
Dunkerton believes the company’s problems stem from a lack of fashion knowledge in the senior management team led by former B&Q and Co-op boss Euan Sutherland.
To take back control, he needs approval from at least half the voting shareholders at a meeting on Tuesday.
James Holder, the former Superdry designer who owns a 10% stake in the business, is already backing Dunkerton. The addition of major shareholders Investec and Schroders will give him the backing of just under 40% of investors, as first reported by Sky News.
Dunkerton told trade journal Retail Week that he believed he also had support from other unnamed institutional investors. “I am confident we will win,” he said.
One source close to the process said: “This is going to go down to the wire. It could be very close.”
The backing from the two major shareholders comes despite advice from the respected investor advisory groups ISS and Glass Lewis to vote against the appointment of Dunkerton and Peter Williams, the former Selfridges executive and Boohoo chairman who he is proposing as a non-executive director.
Less than three weeks ago, Superdry’s board said institutional investors had “voiced strong support for the current strategy and management team” and none had indicated support for Dunkerton’s return.
The apparent change of heart by the Investec fund is particularly notable, as the financial institution is joint corporate broker to Superdry and will be hosting the shareholder meeting at its offices.
Dunkerton has run a very public campaign against Superdry’s board. He set up a website, savesuperdry.com, where some current and former staff have voiced their support for Dunkerton and criticised Sutherland’s management.