Nothing personal, Nat Rothschild says of his assault on Bumi and its board members
Thursday 21 February 2013
From the beginning of today's extraordinary meeting, it was clear that this would be no ordinary vote, right down to the military location in the City of London, an appropriate backdrop for one of the nastiest corporate battles for a long time.
As Bumi's senior independent director Sir Julian Horn-Smith opened the proceedings at the castellated headquarters of the British Army's oldest regiment, the Honourable Artillery Company, he issued a plea for participants to refrain from "defamatory statements".
Nat Rothschild, the banking scion, insisted that his almost daily attacks on Bumi's board, as well as the Bakrie brothers with whom he co-founded the London-listed miner, were not personal.
Speaking after the meeting which was called to vote on his proposals to oust 12 members of Bumi's 14-person board – including the chairman Samin Tan and chief executive Nick von Schirnding – Mr Rothschild said his campaign was "not personal at all, it couldn't be less personal".
Earlier, during the meeting itself, Mr Rothschild demonstrated his ability not to make things personal. "I can't even remember the question, to be honest, after Scot's diatribe," he said when asked if he wanted to comment on board member Scot Merrillees' answer to a shareholder question on Bumi's human rights record.
To be fair to Mr Rothschild on that one, Mr Merrillees' answer was so long-winded that Sir Julian eventually had to cut him off – for the second time in the meeting.
It didn't take long for the meeting to establish a clear pattern, with Mr Rothschild jumping up after each board member or shareholder made a comment to add his tuppence worth. (Not surprising really, since he convened the meeting and lies at the centre of a bitter dispute with co-founders the Bakrie Brothers and the Bumi board.) So when Mr von Schirnding said that the "vast majority" of the $1bn worth of assets that have allegedly gone missing at Bumi's two subsidiary companies dated back to before Bumi was created in November 2010, Mr Rothschild leapt up to denounce that as being "categorically not true".
The Bakrie brothers didn't turn up to the meeting. Sir Julian, a City grandee and veteran at the telecoms giant Vodafone, meanwhile described his experience as a "nightmare".
Speaking after the event, he said: "This has been a nightmare having to serve on this board."
He added: "There's lessons to be learnt and it's important to take a close look at them."
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