Australia’s Myer is open to talks after the top shareholder called for a board reshuffle


Shoppers use their phones as they walk past the entrance to a Myer department store owned by Australia’s largest department store chain, Myer Holdings Ltd. Heard, in Sydney, Australia, November 1, 2017. REUTERS / Steven Saphore / Files

July 8 (Reuters) – Myer Holdings (MYR.AX) said Thursday it was open to negotiating board representation with top shareholder Premier Investments (PMV.AX) after the investor resigned the entire board of the Australian retailer had asked to spare the CEO.

Myer’s response comes after Premier’s billionaire chairman Solomon Lew increased his stake in the retailer to 15.77% and called for a board overhaul as he said the current board did not have the skills needed to make it perform to improve the company. Continue reading

Premier criticizes Myer’s management and its strategy of maintaining profitability and value for shareholders over the years as the retailer tried to keep up with online peers even before the COVID-19 pandemic affected its profits.

“We remain of the view that constructive discussions are in the best interests of all shareholders … our invitation to sit down with Premier Investments stands,” said Myers spokesman on Thursday.

Earlier in the day, Premier said he had nothing to gain from spending time with members of the current Myer board of directors and that the “only” thing he would accept would be the resignation of Myers’ three remaining non-executive directors.

Myer’s board of directors currently consists of four members – acting chairman JoAnne Stephenson, non-executive directors and chief executive John King.

Earlier this week, Premier had called for the immediate resignation of the entire Myer board of directors.

Myer’s earnings were hurt by store closings amid the pandemic, with the 120-year-old company reporting a 13% drop in first-half sales in March.

The company also struggled with sluggish consumer spending in Australia weighed down by slow wage growth, as well as growing competition from internet giants like Amazon (AMZN.O), which undercut the business by selling more products for less money.

Myer’s inability to secure the support of its biggest shareholders had cost then Chairman Garry Hounsell his reappointment last year, with retail veteran Lew’s company demanding a board revision.

Reporting by Riya Sharma and Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru; additional coverage from Sameer Manekar; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips

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