Standard Life joins M&B row

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The Independent Online

Standard Life, the insurer, has intervened in the ongoing bitter row between Mitchells & Butler and one of its largest shareholders, weighing in on behalf of the pubs group.

Standard, which holds around 2 per cent of M&B shares, accused Piedmont, the investment company of billionaire Joe Lewis, of “unreasonable” behaviour. Piedmont, which owns 23 per cent of M&B, is seeking to have four new directors appointed to the company’s board at its annual general meeting next week, and has also warned it will vote against certain resolutions put by the current board.

“The demands of this shareholder are, in our view, both unreasonable and contrary to the interests of the wider shareholder base,” said Standard Life, which has a reputation for taking an activist stance with its shareholdings. “We believe it would be in the best interests of both the company and all shareholders that stability should be brought to the board in a manner that doesn’t give control of the board to its largest shareholder.”

The rancorous dispute between M&B and Piedmont broke out last year when the pubs group was appointing a new chairman and disagreed with its largest shareholder over the right candidate. Both sides have since traded blows, with M&B accusing Piedmont and other shareholders of trying to take control of the company.

The pubs group has said it will recommend two of the four directors backed by Piedmont but is urging shareholders to reject the remaining duo. Piedmont insists all four candidates would act independently.