Almost one-quarter of Mitchells & Butlers shareholders voted against the pub group’s chairman in a sign of increased frustration about governance and the influence of a group of big investors.
At the Toby Carvery owner’s annual general meeting 24.8% of shareholder votes were cast against Bob Ivell’s re-election. There were also big votes against directors Eddie Irwin, Josh Levy and Ron Robson, who represent a group of billionaire investors with more than half the company’s shares.
The investor group, known as the Sandy Lane set after a luxury hotel in Barbados, includes Tottenham Hotspur owner Joe Lewis and the Irish horseracing tycoons John Magnier and JP McManus. The group underwrote M&B’s £350m equity sale earlier in March.
The dominant shareholder group owns about 57% of M&B’s shares, indicating more than half of independent shareholders who voted opposed the four directors.
The company, whose chains also include All Bar One and Harvester, said it noted the level of votes against Ivell, Ron Robson, Eddie Irwin and Josh Levy but said it would stick with its choices. In 2020 more than 20% of votes went against Robson, Irwin and Levy but only 12% of votes opposed Ivell, who has been on the board for 10 years.
“The UK Corporate Governance Code contains best practice recommendations in relation to corporate governance yet acknowledges that, in individual cases, these will not all necessarily be appropriate for particular companies,” M&B said. “The code specifically recognises the concept of ‘comply or explain’ in relation to divergences from the code and the company has explained the circumstances of these appointments in detail in its 2020 annual report.”
There was also a sizeable 17.5% vote against M&B’s remuneration policy at the AGM.