Price knocks back PaperlinX board offer
A private offer for corporate gadfly, Andrew Price, to join the board in order to preserve the ‘dignity’ of chairman Harry Boon is the latest twist in the increasingly rancorous stoush over the governance of the flailing paper merchant.
In a media release Price maintains he met with two PaperlinX directors who suggested he join the Board and call off the general meeting his ginger group of shareholders has demanded. ‘I refused as I said I was not interested in maintaining the status quo. The board and the company over which it presides needs radical and quick change. I was also against the idea of adding to the company’s overhead by increasing the size of the board, let alone for the purpose of preserving the dignity of an individual,’ Price is quoted in the release.
He accuses chairman Harry Boon of being less than enthusiastic about meeting with him to discuss the state of the company. ‘To say that the response that I received was dismissive would be an understatement,’ said Price who presents himself as standing up for shareholders’ rights. ‘There comes a time when enough is enough. Shareholders have lost over 98% of their share value while Mr. Boon, a director since 1998, continues to draw his director’s fees with little or no accountability.
‘There is a culture in Australia that shareholders should shut up and not annoy their board of directors. Somewhere along the line, directors have forgotten who owns the company.’
Price also accuses Boon of holding an excessive number company directorships in excess of the prudential limits recommended by the ACSI. Venturing further afield he identifies the vast sums of Australian superannuation flowing into funds as a factor in distancing company boards from shareholders’ concerns. Post-GFC, he now believes a new era of shareholder activity is putting company directors under greater scrutiny and calls on PaperlinX stakeholders to rally to the cause.
‘The support of the major shareholders will be critical if we are to oust the Chairman, restore accountability and transparency and bring much needed change at PaperlinX. PaperlinX’s largest shareholder, Orbis Australia, has already publicly agreed to support the changes as have a number of other shareholders,’ he said.
He positions himself as a committed activist who owns six million shares in the company as opposed to Harry Boon’s 21,000. In what he describes as a disturbing trend he slams director’s who have little or no ‘skin in the game’, citing the PaperlinX board as a prime example.
The battle lines are becoming more entrenched between Price and the Board ahead of the general meeting called for March 23.