Activists Crown now target Bowleven clear-out

Crown Ocean co-founders Christian Petersmann, Konstantin Stoyanov and chief financial officer Torsten Weißmeier

Monaco-based activist shareholder Crown Ocean Capital (COC), which has ousted most of the board at Edinburgh-based oil and gas firm Bowleven, on Friday requisitioned another general meeting to “remove” chairman William Allan as a director and appoint two “independent” directors Julien Balkany and Didier Lechartier.

Balkany is a partner of New York-based hedge fund Nanes Balkany Partners LLC, which targets investments in publicly traded oil and gas companies, and a brother of French politician Patrick Balkany.

Lechartier is a former executive at a number of oil and gas companies.

The activists also warned that it is “no longer appropriate for current executives to continue to hold their pre-existing executive roles.”

“Crown Ocean regrets that it is necessary to call another general meeting, but it has become clear since 14 March 2017 that the incumbent chairman is reluctant to accept the verdict of shareholders over the future strategy of Bowleven or to recognise that it is no longer appropriate for current executives to continue to hold their pre-existing executive roles,” said Crown Ocean Capital in a stock exchange statement.

“Crown Ocean implores the chairman, Mr Allan, to step down as a director and chairman now to avoid further unnecessary waste of Bowleven’s resources.”

At a general meeting earlier this week, Crown Ocean ousted five directors at Bowleven, an Africa-focused oil and gas exploration company, including chief executive Kevin Hart and chief financial officer Kerry Crawford — but chairman Allan survived.

Crown Ocean was also successful in having two of its nominees, Eli Chahin and Christopher Ashworth, appointed to the Bowleven board to drive the company in a new direction.

Crown Ocean, which controls about 22% of Bowleven shares, succeeded in removing Hart, Crawford, John Martin, Tim Sullivan and Philip Tracy as directors.

Crown Ocean has outlined a new strategy in an open letter to Bowleven shareholders.

In its latest move on Friday, Crown Ocean said: “William MacDonald Allan, the current chairman of Bowleven, however does not acknowledge that shareholders voted for change in leadership and direction and is unwilling to implement the clear new mandate for the new board proposed and voted for by the voting majority of shareholders.

“As a result, we now see a significant danger posed by either a dysfunctional board or one controlled by Mr. Allan who could use his casting vote to maintain the status quo and protect his and the old leadership’s entrenched positions.

“We note that Kevin Hart still acts as chief executive of the company and the other removed executive board member Kerry Crawford remains a Bowleven employee without termination notices having been served.

“We understand that Mr. Allan has no intention to change this. We also want to remind shareholders that Mr. Allan does not own a single share in Bowleven as of 31 December 2016.

“This situation is clearly not sustainable and not in the best interest of shareholders.

“Mr. Allan needs to be removed to see the change in leadership and direction at the company that the voting majority of shareholders have voted for.

“We therefore urge shareholders to vote to remove Mr. Allan.

“In addition, we propose two new and independent board directors with extensive oil and gas sector expertise, board level experience and a strong value creation track record.

“We note that Mr. Lechartier is an oil and gas industry veteran with 25 years of operational experience and an in-depth knowledge of and relationships in the African market, including Cameroon and other West African countries.”