Superdry founder Julian Dunkerton’s ambition to return to the fashion brand was dealt a blow on Wednesday when two leading shareholder advisory groups came out against his reappointment.
ISS said Dunkerton’s return should not be supported as Superdry’s problems were at least partly the result of his decision-making, while Pirc said his presence on the board would make it insufficiently independent.
The groups also oppose the appointment of Peter Williams, the former Selfridges director, whom Dunkerton has put forward for election.
In a note to investors, ISS said: “Given that the current issues at the company seem to have at least partially arisen as a result of combined decision-making by Julian Dunkerton and management, shareholder support for these proposals is not considered warranted at this time.”
Dunkerton, who owns 18% of Superdry but stepped down from its board a year ago to focus on his family cider business and a small chain of boutique pubs and hotels, is battling to return after a dive in the company’s share price.
The value of the company, known for its Japanese-inspired graphic T-shirts, slumped after it put out a series of profit warnings which it blamed on an over-reliance on jackets and heavily branded items partly selected by Dunkerton.
Dunkerton has called a shareholder meeting, to be held on 2 April in London, at which shareholders will vote on whether to install him and Williams as non-executive directors.
Dunkerton and the former Superdry director and designer James Holder, who owns a 10% stake in the business and is backing his former boss, said in a statement: “Naturally we are disappointed by the ISS recommendation. However, we acknowledge that it is extremely rare for ISS to support shareholders who propose changes in corporate strategies.
“The strategic and leadership failings at Superdry remain clear and the financial and operational impacts are obvious and profound: we know how to fix these issues. We continue to engage productively with shareholders, and we are hugely encouraged by the positive response to our proposals.”
Dunkerton and Holder are to put their case to shareholders in a conference call on Friday morning and have set up a website, savesuperdry.com, where they have encouraged staff and investors to post supportive comments.