Investors give Mulberry bosses a handbagging

Investors have weathered three profit warnings and the departure of chief executive Bruno Guillon in March following its failed move upmarket

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The Independent Online

Shareholders in handbag brand Mulberry spoke out at the group’s annual meeting yesterday, calling on the company to hire new directors and speed up its search for a new designer.

Investors have weathered three profit warnings and the departure of chief executive Bruno Guillon in March following its failed move upmarket. Its shares are down 20 per cent this year and the brand is now without a chief executive and a creative director after Emma Hill left last year. It is also not hosting a fashion show at London Fashion Week for the second season in a row.

Two vocal, small shareholders spoke out at the meeting, with one claiming its plan to go upmarket “reflects badly on the current board’s decision making”.

He added: “The company is going downhill steadily. It is in decline. Isn’t it time we have new directors into the company to take it forward?”

The executive chairman, Godfrey Davis, said the board is focused on finding a new creative director, which will come before the selection of a chief executive.

He said it is very important the two are “compatible” – possibly referring to the departure of Ms Hill, who left after just over a year of working with Mr Guillon.”

Mr Davis said Mulberry’s return to selling a more bags priced between £500 and £800 rather than a focus on £1,000-plus bags would improve sales.

The finance director, Roger Mather, said the company had increased the number of bags in the “sweet spot” price of £500-£800 from 24 per cent in 2013 to 40 per cent this year.

Another shareholder also questioned the composition of the board and requested that a director in charge of sales should sit on the board.

Four of the group’s  six non-executive directors are employed by or related to its majority owners, Ong Beng Seng and Christina Ong, who control more than 56 per cent of the voting rights.

Despite the outspoken investors at the AGM, all resolutions at the meeting were passed.

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