Boardroom warfare at Fairfax Media ahead of AGM

With the AGM of Fairfax Media due to be held on 10 November, Fairfax directors John B Fairfax and his son Nicholas have  released a public statement indicating that the will vote against the re-election of the Chairman, Ron Walker, at the AGM. This follows comments by Walker on Thursday in the Australian Financial Review that he would retire from the Board in 2010 – a year later than the Fairfax family had hoped.

Chairman  Ron Walker has accused director John B. Fairfax of hypocrisy, deceiving the board and driving down the share price. He suggested that efforts to unseat him from his role as chairman “is a ploy by the Fairfax family to get control of the company without paying a premium to other shareholders, and the independent directors will act responsibly in the interest of all shareholders to prevent this.”

The holding company of the Fairfax family interests, Marinya Media, which owns 9.7% of Fairfax Media, said it would vote to dump Mr Walker in November, citing “significant shareholder dissatisfaction with his performance”. Indeed some institutional investors have reportedly being campaigning in recent months for John Fairfax to become Chairman.

The independent directors released a statement on 18 September unanimously supporting the Chairman, noting that he had led the company with ‘great distinction’.

Not unlike the deepening divisions at Independent News & Media in recent weeks, Fairfax Media’s Board now include two diametrically opposed camps.

Links

Fairfax Media – Independent directors’ statement

BusinessDay – Battle lines drawn in fight for Fairfax

BusinessDay – At Fairfax, it’s OK, now you can mention the war

Irish Times – INM seeks to stop vote on O’Brien motions ahead of €200m bond deal

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