Billionaire declares war on Myer board

Tuesday, 24 October 2017, 04:12:31 PM. RETAIL magnate Solomon Lew has officially declared war on the Myer board, laying down his list of threats and demands for the struggling department store chain.

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RETAIL magnate Solomon Lew has officially declared war on the Myer board, laying down his list of threats and demands for the struggling department store chain.

The billionaire businessman has announced he will vote against the appointment of the incoming Myer chairman at the department store chain’s annual meeting.

Solomon Lew calls on Myer to reveal first-quarter sales

Lew slams department store group Myer’s strategy ‘on the run’

Premier Investments — the listed company controlled by Mr Lew — says it will vote against the appointment of all directors proposed for election at the annual meeting later this month, including incoming chairman Garry Hounsell.

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Myer is hoping sales of spring racing fashion lines, such as those modelled here by Miss Universe Australia Olivia Rogers, boost its performance this quarter. Source: News Corp Australia

Premier, which is Myer’s biggest shareholder, has also threatened to call an extraordinary general meeting of shareholders as it seeks to have two of its own directors appointed to the Myer board.

It also wants to have a further non-executive director that does not sit on the Premier board appointed to the 10-person Myer board.

READ MORE: Terry McCrann on why Myer should be prepared for a fight to the death.

Premier said its proposal was rejected by Myer after being delivered to Mr Hounsell at a meeting on October 6.

“Mr Hounsell then inferred to the media that he was yet to meet with Mr Lew, and publicly backed the ‘New Myer’ strategy against all of the evidence that it is not working,” Premier said in a statement this morning.

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Incoming Myer chairman Garry Hounsell does not have the support of the retailer’s biggest investor, Solly Lew’s Premier Investments. Picture: David Geraghty. Source: News Corp Australia

“Myer is an iconic and important Australian business which, for the sake of its shareholders, employees and customers, must not be allowed to suffer any further decline.

“Premier wishes to contribute its significant retail industry expertise at board level, and hopes that it can garner the support of its fellow Myer shareholders to do so.”

Mr Lew’s company will also vote against the re-election of Myer director JoAnne Stephenson and the election of Julie Ann Morrison, noting the latter “has been has been a company director of the failed Sass & Bide business for 21 months.”

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Solly Lew is the cornerstone shareholder in Premier Investments, which owns chains including Just Jeans, Jay Jays, Smiggle and Peter Alexander. Source: News Corp Australia

Premier, a Melbourne-based fashion house that owns chains including Peter Alexander, Portmans, Smiggle and Just Jeans, grabbed a 10.8 per cent stake in Myer in March.

In its statement today, Premier said it had “no current intention” of making a takeover offer for the department store chain.

It said it would be “very closely” monitoring a Myer strategy update day scheduled for November 1, and repeated its call for the retailer to release its latest sales and profits figures to back up claims its turnaround strategy was starting to bear fruit.

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Julie Ann Morrison (left), pictured here with Myer fashion buyer Karen Brewster, is also up for election to the Myer board later this month — without the support of Mr Lew. Source: News Corp Australia

In a separate letter to Myer shareholders today, Mr Lew said “enough is enough”.

“I have worked my entire life in the retail industry and Myer is a business I have always admired as an Australian retail icon,” he said.

“At its height, it was a well-run business that understood what its customers wanted to buy, and delivered it with great service.

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Myer chief Richard Umbers is overseeing a five-year turnaround program at the chain. Picture: Aaron Francis. Source: News Corp Australia

“Sadly, those times are long gone. In my view, and based on my personal experience in many Myer stores, Myer has lost its way.”

“It has too much product that people simply don’t want to buy. Its stores — particularly those in suburban and regional areas- are disorderly, and it has not invested in frontline customer service.

“Too many of its talented retailers have left the business, and I believe it is now being run by consultants who have very little experience of running a retail business.”

Mr Lew also promised a showdown at Myer’s annual meeting, which is scheduled for November 24.

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Kris Smith is among the group of models Myer draws on the market its lines. Picture: Christian Gilles Source: News Corp Australia

“Premier will be attending the annual general meeting of Myer and voicing these and many other concerns,” he said.

“We take no pleasure in doing so — in fact we are very saddened to see the state of this once great Australian company — but we are no longer prepared to put up with being shut-out by the board.”

Premier paid $1.15 a share for its stake in Myer in March. Myer shares were down 0.7 per cent in early trade today, at 74c.

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