Tuesday, May 16, 2006

16 May 2006: Extraordinary

OK, I admit it, the work and newly-married life is taking precedence over blogging at the moment. But still, hard to let this one pass off unnoticed...

Yesterday at around 4pm, Michael Wilde called an Extraordinary General Meeting of Southampton Leisure Holdings plc, the parent company of Southampton Football Club. The meeting has one item on the agenda: a vote to remove Rupert Lowe, Andrew Cowan and the three other directors from the board and to replace them with five others, including Wilde himself. As part of this process, there would be a slight restructuring of the board, in particular a clear separation in the roles of Chairman and Chief Executive.

To get the changes through, Wilde needs to get a straight majority of the votes cast during the meeting. He has access to around 25% of the shares himself, and other stated anti-Lowe shareholders (Leon Crouch, Sarwan Singh and the Saints Trust fans body) can take that figure up to around 40%. Lowe, Lowe's family and the directors facing removal control around 25% of the vote. The remaining 35% are held by businesses and small investors unaffiliated to either group. So it may come down to the number of non-aligned shareholders who show up to the meeting, or it may be that Lowe capitulates and leaves before the EGM happens. At the moment, though, it looks like Lowe is staying for the fight, and so far the official site are claiming nothing much other than saying Lowe doesn't think the shareholders will go for Wilde's proposals. With the figures as they currently are, it certainly could be close.

Still, the clock is ticking. The board have to call the EGM within 21 days and the meeting itself must take place within 28 days after it is called. That could take us almost to next season, but at least we now have a maximum life-span for the current board. If Lowe loses, the fans celebrate; if he wins, it shows a level of support previously unknown. Either way, the club will tidy itself up and move on with the chosen board having a clear mandate from the shareholders, which is a good thing. But surely Wilde would not have taken this step without first doing the maths and checking he'd win. And if he's right...

Hm. Why do I smell another 'Rupert Lowe Confidential' coming on?

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