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.

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty

Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind'

Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

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

Helpdesk Analyst

£23000 per annum + pension and 22 days holiday: Ashdown Group: An established ...

Senior Helpdesk Analyst / Service Desk Co-ordinator

£27000 per annum + pension, 22 days holiday: Ashdown Group: An established ind...

Senior Pensions Administrator

£23000 - £26000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Corporate Actions Administrator / Operations Administrator

£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: A Corporate Actions Administrator / Operations Admini...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album