A co-founder of Superdry and its chief executive will face off in a shareholder vote on the future of the fashion retailer, which has lost its “cool” and 65% of its market value over the past year.
Julian Dunkerton, the chain’s multimillionaire founder, is seeking shareholders’ backing to reinstall him on the board of the company he quit last year in a row over strategy.
Dunkerton, who owns 18% of Superdry, has vowed to restore the brand to its former glory and turn around the “catastrophic” decline in its share price. However, Superdry’s board, led by the chief executive, Euan Sutherland, are urging shareholders to reject Dunkerton’s plan, claiming his return would be “extremely damaging”.
They say Dunkerton is to blame for the company’s loss of direction and poor design choices, as he was brand director until he stood down last March. The directors have threatened to quit en masse if Dunkerton returns.
The showdown will come at a shareholders’ meeting at Investec investment bank in the City of London on Tuesday morning. Dunkerton has said: “I’m confident we’ll win.” The collapse in the share price has cost him more than £150m since he left.
A second Dunkerton-proposed motion calls for the appointment of Peter Williams, a former Selfridges executive and Boohoo chair, to the board as a non-executive director.
Dunkerton’s plans have the backing of the Superdry co-founder James Holder, who owns 10% of the shares and has called for an “urgent sea change” in the company’s direction.
Two of the Superdry’s key institutional shareholders – Investec and Schroders, which together control about 10% – also appear to be in his corner. Added together that gives Dunkerton’s 38% of the vote; more than 50% of which is required to pass the motion.
Superdry’s management has been publicly backed by Aberdeen Standard Investments, which has about 10% of the shares, and the proxy voting advisory firms ISS and Pirc, whose views guide passive investment funds.
Glass Lewis, the proxy advisory service, said although Superdry’s financial delivery had been “very poor in recent months, at least part of the responsibility for this underperformance appears to lie with Mr Dunkerton”.