Lewis calls on M&B to review its business

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The Independent Online

Activist investor Joe Lewis has called on British pubs group Mitchells & Butlers to conduct a review of its business and present a plan to shareholders within 60 days of its forthcoming AGM.

In an open letter to shareholders, Lewis' investment vehicle Piedmont, which holds a 23 per cent stake in the company, urged shareholders to back the appointment of four candidates it has put forward to join M&B's board.

"It is our strong view that a board refreshed and strengthened by the four independent nominees we have put forward for election will deliver the leadership and support to unlock value for all shareholders," Piedmont said.

"We believe the new board should move with urgency to conduct a review of the business and report to shareholders with a plan within 60 days," it added.

M&B, the owner of Harvester and All Bar One, is involved in a public spat with Bahamas-based Lewis over the make-up of its board after ousting four directors, including two of his representatives in December.

It has accused Piedmont of colluding with other shareholders to take control of the board, highlighting the combined influence of Piedmont and Elpida, the investment vehicle of Irish racing magnates JP McManus and John Magnier, which holds a 17.6 percent stake.

Piedmont has proposed M&B shareholders appoint John Lovering, Simon Burke, Jeremy Blood and Mike Balfour to the board as independent directors at the annual meeting on 28 January.

M&B said it supported the nominations of Mssrs Lovering and Burke but advised shareholders to vote against the appointment of Mssrs Balfour and Blood on the basis a single shareholder should not be in a position to nominate a majority of the board.

The boardroom row has taken attention away from the company's strong trading performance over the Christmas and New Year period.

Shares in M&B closed today at 278.5p, valuing the business at £1.13bn.

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