Disgruntled shareholders plot to oust Handover

Leading shareholders in WH Smith are plotting to remove its chairman, Richard Handover, who they blame for the company's poor performance.

At least two groups of institutional investors have raised the issue with WH Smith's financial adviser, Citigroup. They now plan to voice their concerns about Mr Handover with WH Smith's non-executive directors in the next few weeks.

Mr Handover, who joined WH Smith in 1964 as a shop assistant, served as chief executive for six years before becoming chairman in November, replacing Martin Taylor. Kate Swann, the former Argos boss, was appointed chief executive.

Earlier this month the company spooked the City by issuing a severe profits warning and announced the immediate departure of Beverley Hodson, head of UK retail.

One WH Smith shareholder said: "[Mr Handover's] position as chairman of the company is no longer tenable. He was chief executive during a period when the group was clearly mismanaged. We need the new chief executive to have a clear run at things. We need no one around with any baggage - no cause for conflict.

"We have already gone to stage one - approaching the advisers. We will move to stage two - the non-executives - very shortly."

Another leading shareholder said: "The argument about keeping him on to ensure continuity does not apply here. The company has lost its way so badly that there's very little to lose."

Shareholders, however, face a dilemma about which WH Smith non-executive director to approach. The senior non-executive director, Michael Orr, who has been on the board for 11 years, is due to step down at WH Smith's annual general meeting on 29 January.

WH Smith is in discussions with potential replacements. One fund manager said he would prefer to wait and approach a new member of the non-executive team, who should come to the company with fresh eyes.

Mr Handover is due to retire on 31 January 2005, but an early exit could throw up serious governance issues. The 57-year-old is paid £465,000, which is only £10,000 less than the chief executive's salary. If he was sacked before the end of his one-year contract then he would be eligible for a handsome payoff.

Shareholders are also expected to voice concerns about Ms Hodson's pay-off at the AGM.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Foreign Exchange Dealer - OTE £40,000+

£16000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Foreign Exchange Dealer is re...

SThree: Experienced Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £40000 per annum + OTE + Incentives + Benefits: SThree: Established f...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40/45k + INCENTIVES + BENEFITS: SThree: The su...

Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones