Row at Stobart escalates as ex-CEO accuses directors of defamation

A boardroom row at Stobart, the owner of London Southend Airport, has escalated this morning as the company's former chief executive accused his fellow directors of defamation.

Andrew Tinkler, who has remained an executive director at Stobart after handing over the reins last year, announced in May that he would be voting against the reappointment of chairman Iain Ferguson at the company's AGM later this month.

The move received broad criticism from the rest of Stobart's board, who said that Tinkler had continually posed "challenges" to the company by demanding bonuses, leaving behind legal issues from his time as CEO and generally making strong corporate governance near-impossible.

Read more: Stobart's broker has resigned following a Woodford-backed boardroom row

But Tinkler today hit back, saying: "I very much regret that the chairman has resorted to personal insult in this discussion. I warned the chairman and his supporters on the board that the announcement issued on 29 May contains false and defamatory material about me, and information regarding the company that I consider to be misleading.

"Nevertheless, the chairman and his supporters authorised the release of the announcement containing that material."

City A.M. understands that Tinkler may consider pursuing legal action against individual directors.

Tinkler himself owns 7.7 per cent of Stobart, and at least two other shareholders – one of which is understood to be Neil Woodford's firm Woodford Investment Management – are backing the former boss.

Some of the shareholders supporting Tinkler have suggested Philip Day, the billionaire owner of the Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group which itself looks after brands including Jaeger and Peacocks, should replace Ferguson.

Read more: Flybe share price nosedives after Stobart Group abandons approach

But Invesco, Stobart's largest shareholder with 24.8 per cent of the company, has declared its support for Ferguson.

Tinkler said the argument between himself and Ferguson was "over the implementation of future strategy of the Stobart Group".

"My only objective is to ensure that the company sticks to the agreed company strategy and does not deviate from this, as this will deliver the best returns for shareholders," he added today.

He also criticised Ferguson for making the disagreement public rather than allowing discussions to continue in private.

Stobart's other directors issued a statement last week saying that Tinkler's behaviour had led them to believe that further negotiations were not possible.

The angered former boss has said he will write to shareholders to explain his issues, and urge them to vote against Ferguson at the AGM, "in due course".

Stobart's share price was up 2.8 per cent in morning trading.

Read more: Stobart to invest £40m in London Southend Airport in next four years




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