Hargreaves re-elected at closed Matalan meeting

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The Independent Online

John Hargreaves, the chairman of Matalan, won overwhelming support for his re-election to the board at yesterday's annual meeting despite attempts by a dissident US shareholder to unseat him.

David Herro, of the Chicago-based Harris Associates, failed to garner any meaningful support to pose any threat to the position of Mr Hargreaves on the board of the company he is seeking to take private two decades after founding it.

Just 8 per cent of the group's shares were voted against Mr Hargreaves' re-election as chairman, of which 7 per cent were held by Mr Herro, in a routine shareholders' meeting that lasted 15 minutes. Only about 20 private shareholders turned up at the retailer's head office at Skelmersdale in Lancashire for the meeting, at which the media was barred.

Despite the excitement in the City that has surrounded the revelation that Mr Hargreaves is working on an offer, retail investors seemed oblivious to the question marks surrounding the company's future. The only query from the floor that Mr Hargreaves had to deal with concerned Matalan's recycling scheme.

It was the first time Mr Hargreaves had met the board's four non-executive directors since the company's disclosure on Friday evening that he had threatened to withdraw his family's crucial support for the group's dividend. A routine board meeting before yesterday 's AGM passed without a reference to Mr Hargreaves' threat or his potential offer.

The directors were relieved that the meeting was the sort of low-key affair it normally is. Although the group's independent directors were clear that they would not be bullied into accepting a low-ball bid from Mr Hargreaves, whose family speaks for 53 per cent of the shares, there has been no major rift between the opposing sides. "There has been no personal falling out between John Hargreaves and the non-executives," one source said.

Trading figures released yesterday showed like-for-like sales flattened out over the past nine weeks, after falling 2 per cent in the previous two weeks.