Tiphook investors demand explanation of Montague's role

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The Independent Online
A GROUP of investment institutions in Tiphook, the ailing transportation group, are demanding a full justification from the company of the continuing role of the founder and chief executive, Robert Montague.

Three leading UK-based institutions have teamed up to bring pressure to bear on the company over Mr Montague's performance. Representatives of the three houses will contact the company before next Thursday's annual shareholder meeting.

Shareholders are angry that Mr Montague has retained a senior post at Tiphook despite presiding over a cataclysmic fall in profits, and an equally dramatic decline in the value of the company's shares.

There has also been outrage at Mr Montague's salary and share option scheme. His remuneration package for the year to 31 March rose to pounds 1.34m from pounds 1.17m in 1993.

One leading fund manager said yesterday: 'We are naturally concerned about any company that seems to have failed to act in shareholders' interests.'

The institutions want to be convinced that the company's profits and share price will recover more quickly with Mr Montague at the helm than without him. They want the company to explain to them in private why he is still chief executive, and precisely how his continued leadership will benefit the company.

The three institutions stressed that they were acting in the interests of their shareholding clients.

'They have to be reassured that the price of the shares will recover more quickly with Mr Montague there than if he quit the group.'

The fund manager stressed that he did not know what the outcome of the group's action would be.

Tiphook's taxable profits fell from a peak of pounds 69m in 1991 to a loss of pounds 331m last year. The value of the shares has fallen from 564p in October 1991 to a low of 30p early last month. Yesterday the shares were unchanged at 38p.

More generally, shareholders are also unhappy about compensation payments to three directors who resigned from the group in March this year and one who left in August last year.

Roger Braidwood, Eric Goodwin, Christopher Palmer and Nicholas Smith received a total of pounds 2.7m in compensation for loss of office. The payments increased the total cost of remunerating Tiphook directors for the year to 31 March to pounds 6.25m, up from pounds 3.9m in 1993.

A spokesman for Tiphook said yesterday: 'There is no institutional revolt.'

He added that 66 per cent of Tiphook's shares are owned by Americans. 'In the US, institutions take a more sanguine view of corporate governance,' he said.

On the unrest over remuneration the spokesman added: 'The principal arrangements have been known to the banks for some considerable time.'