Spotlight On... William Stobart, Chief operating officer, Stobart Group

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The Independent Online

No prizes for guessing which company he's a part of, then?

Well no, it won't surprise you to find out that William Stobart is a member of the Stobart clan. In fact he's the son of Eddie, the lorry empire's founder, but up until yesterday the Stobart board was conspicuously absent of any actual Stobarts.

Until yesterday?

Yes, when Stobart announced that William Stobart is rejoining the board as an executive director. Eighteen months ago he stepped down – while staying as the chief operating officer – as part of a shake-up, with the company saying it would allow him to "focus full time" on the transport division.

So how did that go?

Apparently very well. According to Stobart's chairman, William is now able to "devote more of his time to wider operational issues after completing much of the restructuring work" in the unit.

Weren't there questions over a property deal recently?

Well, his time away from the board was not without some controversy, with Stobart Group agreeing a £101m deal to buy back 18 properties from WA Developments, which is owned by both William Stobart and the group's chief executive officer Andrew Tinkler (who happens to be William's brother-in-law). Stobart itself had sold the portfolio to WA Developments back in 2007 for £142m when the property market was booming.

And that wasn't contentious?

The company said an independent valuation of the portfolio put its worth at £98.9m, but that didn't stop shareholder group Pirc opposing the deal, saying there was "no basis to their conclusion that the acquisition had a fair price". It also claimed that, although William and Mr Tinkler were not voting on the deal, there were "inherent conflicts of interest in this transaction".

So shareholders did rebel?

In the end, no – shareholders passed the acquisition, with a little more than 2 per cent of the shares cast voting against the resolution. The task for the company now is to persuade investors that the stock is worth buying: Stobart's share price has slumped nearly 30 per cent since February 2011.