Arnault's no show stirs shareholders at Guinness agm

Bernard Arnault, the only member of the Guinness board who voted against its planned pounds 24bn merger with Grand Metropolitan, failed to attend its annual meeting yesterday. Mr Arnault, the chairman of Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the luxury goods group which owns a 14 per cent stake in Guinness, was not on the podium at a packed meeting in a central London hotel.

No apology or explanation was given for his absence until a shareholder questioned it. Mr Speers, an ordinary shareholder said: "I note that certain members of the Guinness board are not present here including one member [Mr Arnault] who voted against the merger. Is there any significance in that?"

Tony Greener, the Guinness chairman, who has constantly denied talk of a rift between him and the Frenchman, said Mr Arnault was attending another board meeting on the same day and sent his apologies.

When questioned about the issue after the meeting, Mr Greener said Mr Arnault had given his apologies "months ago". Asked whether the alleged "rift" between them was so bad that Mr Arnault had deliberately chosen not to attend, Mr Greener said "absolutely not".

He added: "He has never been able to attend a Guinness annual meeting before, because he has always had another board meeting on the same day. It's nothing unusual."

Mr Arnault is chairman of Christian Dior as well as LVMH. He is also a non-executive director of Compagnie Generale des Eaux, the French utility. Guinness said all the companies had the same financial year end so a clash of meetings was possible.

When Mr Arnault voted against the GrandMet merger last week he proposed instead a three-way merger of the wine and spirits businesses of Guinness, GrandMet and Moet Hennessy, the LVMH drinks subsidiary in which Guinness holds a 34 per cent stake.

Mr Greener also discounted the possibility that an investment bank might devise a break-up bid for Guinness which would deliver Mr Arnault the company's spirits operation, United Distillers which he could then integrate the business with his own drinks group, Moet Hennessy. "If that was going to happen I would have thought it would be much more likely if the shares were nearer pounds 4 than pounds 6," Mr Greener said. The shares closed 6p lower yesterday at 566.5p.

Alternatively, analysts say the proposed merger might provoke Mr Arnault to sell his 14 per cent stake. He sold 7 per cent of the company's shares in January. Guinness directors will meet Mr Arnault at the next Moet meeting in the next three weeks.

Another shareholder criticised the Guinness board for a lack of imagination in their choice of name for the new company, GMG Brands. He suggested "Guinness Galore" as an alternative.

Mr Greener said he and the GrandMet chairman George Bull had considered GGM but had decided against it as it "might have connotations with horses and carts".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksNow available in paperback
Life and Style
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Marketing Services Manager - (communications, testing, DM)

£32000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Services Manage...

Guru Careers: Finance Account Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Finance Account Manager with...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Direct Marketing Manager - B2C, Financial Services - Slough

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity h...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas