Piedmont hits back in M&B boardroom row

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The largest shareholder in the pub group Mitchells & Butlers has advised shareholders to elect all four candidates it has nominated at the AGM later this month. The move by Piedmont follows M&B recommending on Monday they vote against two nominees, Michael Balfour and Jeremy Blood, arguing that a single shareholder with a 23 per cent stake should not decide the majority of the board.

In an open letter to shareholders yesterday, Piedmont, the investment vehicle of billionaire Joe Lewis, said: "The company has rejected two of the four nominees, messrs Blood and Balfour, without any justification. If it has genuine reasons to dispute their independence then we invite the board to explain to all shareholders why the expertise and experience of these individuals should be denied to the company.

It added: "Furthermore, it is completely false to say that Piedmont demanded John Lovering be appointed Chairman: we have always said that the chairmanship is a matter for the board, and board composition in turn a matter for all shareholders to vote at the AGM." But a M&B spokesman said it had received a proposal on 4 January from Piedmont that asked for its current chairman Simon Laffin to stand out down and for it to back John Lovering as chairman." On Monday, M&B asked shareholders to elect Mr Laffin as chairman.

The M&B also pointed to the robust festive trading statement it posted last week, addressing Piedmont's criticisms over the way the company is being run.