Activist investor calls for departure of Stock Spirits’ chairman

The largest shareholder in drinks group Stock Spirits is calling for the removal of the company’s chairman after claiming investors should be receiving a greater share of its profits.

Western Gate Private Investments has called for the removal Stock Spirits chairman, David Maloney, and senior independent director, John Nicolson, as reported by The Times.

Headed by Portuguese retail magnate Luis Amaral, Western Gate plans to use its 9.7% stake in the business to persuade others to vote against the re-election of Maloney and Nicolson at Stock Spirits’ AGM on 14 February.

Western Gate has accused the Stock Spirits board of failing to implement a “credible growth strategy” and has questioned both its merger and acquisition policy and the proportion of the profits given to investors.

While headquartered in the UK, Stock Spirits operates mainly in Poland, the Czech Republic, Italy, Slovakia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia.

A spokesperson for Western Gate added: “Stock Spirits needs to be run for the company, its owners, not its managers. The board, led by the chairman David Maloney, continues to treat corporate governance as a box-ticking exercise whilst ignoring shareholders and over-seeing a culture of group think.”

Stock Spirits has rebuked Western Gate’s claims, stating that Maloney and Nicolson has the “unanimous support of their colleagues on the board”.

“We have made it clear that M&A [mergers and acquisitions] is an integral part of our growth strategy, and we continue to assess a range of opportunities to enhance shareholder value,” a spokesperson added.

This is not the first time that Western Gate has weighed into board politics. In 2016, it successfully ousted the former chief executive of Stock Spirits, Chris Heath, having called for a fresh perspective citing the company’s “poor financial performance” and loss of market share.

This follows news of the appointment of former Christie’s CEO Patricia Barbizet to Pernod Ricard, after another activist investor, Elliott Management Corporation, called for the firm to improve its corporate governance.

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