FirstGroup drives home a significant no vote against CEO

FirstGroup drives home a significant no vote against CEO

On 15 September 2020, FTSE 250 transport company FirstGroup plc held its AGM which saw almost a third of its shareholders vote against the re-election of CEO, Matthew Gregory (resolution 7), with 29.72%, accounting for a significant no vote. Activist shareholder, Coast Capital Management, had been leading a campaign to vote against the re-election of the FirstGroup board after having pressurised the board to sell off its North American units, FirstTransit and FirstStudent. The AGM also saw dissenting votes against the re-election of directors Steve Gunning (19.48%), Martha Poulter (18.59%) and David Robbie (17.50%).

In response to the AGM outcome, the chairman commented: The Board takes seriously its responsibility to understand the views and perspectives of shareholders, and as part of this ongoing commitment, we engaged widely ahead of this AGM. We are disappointed but aware of the views of certain investors who represent more than 20% of the issued share capital, who voted against resolution 7 today. We are committed to continuing a constructive and open dialogue on this and all other matters with our shareholders.’

This is not the first time that director re-election has come under the spotlight at FirstGroup. At the 2019 AGM, more than 20% of shareholders voted against the re-election of directors Imelda Walsh and Jim Winestock, with board commenting ‘The Board takes seriously its responsibility to understand shareholders’ opinions and will continue to discuss investors’ views on these and other matters as part of our ongoing programme of engagement.’ The company subsequently reported in its 2020 annual report that ‘Since the AGM, two of our longest serving directors (Jim Winestock and Imelda Walsh) stepped down after having served on the Board for seven and five years respectively.’

Market Tracker has conducted research into AGM voting results, which shows that director re-election has historically been one of the most voted down resolutions. This will be further explored in the upcoming Shareholder Voting Trend Report, to be published in October.


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