Beware the wrath of shareholders

As Tesco's AGM today marks the anniversary of Lord MacLaurin's outburst against his successor, Alex Lawson highlights some of the best investor showdowns in recent years

Livelihoods, pensions and nest eggs can dwindle in the blink of an eye in the world of stocks and shares.

So it's perhaps unsurprising that companies' annual general meetings – at which shareholders large and small have the right to vote on pay and appointments and address management – frequently become outlets for those left out of pocket by underperforming firms to vent their spleen or make a stand.

The supermarket giant Tesco will host its meeting in London today, marking a year since its former chairman Lord MacLaurin shocked onlookers with an extraordinary outburst against Sir Terry Leahy, who led the retailer from 1997 until 2011 when he handed the reins to current incumbent Philip Clarke.

Lord MacLaurin claimed Sir Terry had "lost the plot" investing in the company's international arm and, in particular, his US venture Fresh & Easy to the detriment of its UK business which Mr Clarke has since battled to turn around.

Although Lord MacLaurin told The Independent he does not intend to attend this year's meeting, investor ire is never far away from such occasions, as a look at shareholder showdowns in recent years quickly reveals.

June 2014

Morrisons

A long-standing critic of current Morrisons boss Dalton Philips, Sir Ken Morrison, who built up the supermarket, branded Mr Philips' strategy "bullshit" in a statement as fresh in the chief executive's mind as the manure in Morrison's bull field he was comparing the Irishman's turnaround plan to.

April 2013

Rio Tinto

The mining giant's new chief executive Sam Walsh faced a string of angry investors as he defended its strategy, including questionable investments in Canada, Mongolia and Africa and the $14bn (£8bn) writedown which led to his predecessor Tom Albanese's resignation.

"To suggest, as you did in your opening statement, that you are doing well when your sales are down and you've made a resounding loss is, I suggest, outrageous," one irate shareholder said.

April 2013 & April 2014

Barclays

Barclays' AGMs have not been sedate affairs in recent years as much of the banker bashing has been borne by the banking titan.

In 2013, 75-year-old Joan Woolard labelled the bank's chiefs a "bunch of crooks" and dubbed them "greedy bastards". April's event on London's South Bank was no less eventful, with shareholders who had passed swathes of protesters outside rewarded with a good chuckle at an investor who said Barclays were paying Premiership wages but getting a lower division performance. "We're paying for Manchester United but we are getting Colchester United," the shareholder quipped.

May 2013

HSBC

World Development Movement campaigners set up a Carbon Bubbles champagne bar, serving oil from champagne bottles outside HSBC's AGM at the Barbican Centre, London, last year. Accused of an array of ills, including supporting tax havens, laundering Mexican drug cartels' money and desecrating forests in Sarawak and Borneo, the bank was blasted by attendees, most notably broadcaster and environmentalist Bill Oddie.

"There has been no mention of the environmental damage [deforestation] is causing to wildlife habitats. That is a major crime, and HSBC has been financing that crime," Mr Oddie said.

July 2012

Marks & Spencer

Marks & Spencer's AGMs are famed for their docile nature and tasty sandwiches but a savage attack on non-executive director Steven Holliday shook up the annual gathering.

Brigid Barker was thrown out of the meeting amid audible gasps after she verbally attacked Mr Holliday, also National Grid's chief executive, claiming he had destroyed her daughter Laura's career. Ms Barker claimed Mr Holliday had "used his power to control her job and destroyed her career when she could no longer meet his sexual demands".

February 2012

EasyJet

The orange airline's founder and largest shareholder, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, blasted the company's dealings at its headquarters in Luton. Speaking via a spokesman at the height of the 2012 Shareholder Spring against pay, the company's colourful creator dubbed the process "a sham", claiming the board had "bought" shareholders' votes with its promises to reconsider the return on capital employed method used to decide directors' pay.

May 2009

ITV

The broadcaster's executive chairman Michael Grade faced Monty Python-esque criticism from those who believed he'd been a very naughty boy after joining from the BBC. Enraged investors lamented that he had never had to deal with shareholders at Auntie Beeb and said he had caused underperformance at ITV. "When you were hoisted into the job, it was like the Messiah had landed. The share price at the time was about £1.20. Now it's 30p," said an outraged shareholder.

May 2009

Royal Dutch Shell

The oil titan faced one of the biggest City rebellions on record as pay plans were voted down and fires were lit by angry protesters outside the meeting.

Standard Life's head of corporate governance Guy Jubb said he was "dismayed" by the size of Shell's outgoing chief executive Jeroen van der Veer's pay packet, and another shareholder declared: "This gravy train has got to stop. The board should very carefully consider whether it is living in cloud cuckoo land."

Sport
The sun rises over St Andrews golf course, but will it be a new dawn for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club?
sportAnd it's Yes to women (at the R&A)
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Head of Audit

To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

Audit Manager Central Functions

To £85,000 + banking benefits: Saxton Leigh: You will be expected to carry out...

Credit Risk Audit Manager

Up to £90,000 + benefits: Saxton Leigh: Credit Risk Audit Manager required to ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week