Aberdeen Standard takes on Mitchells & Butlers board

Edinburgh-based investment giant Aberdeen Standard Investments said it voted against the re-election of the chair of the board at the annual general meeting of pubs group Mitchells & Butlers.

The fund manager also said it again voted against the four board members who are nominated by the two largest shareholders, Piedmont Inc and Elpida Group.

The move is part of an ongoing row over alleged poor corporate governance and lack of boardroom diversity at Mitchells & Butlers.

Aberdeen Standard is the third largest shareholder in Mitchells & Butlers, controlling 8.7% of the issued share capital, currently valued at £106 million.   

ASI also has exposure to the company’s debt securities, currently valued at £74 million, giving a combined client exposure of £180 million.

Deborah Gilshan, Aberdeen Standard ESG Investment Director, said: “We have consistently called for the independence of the board of Mitchells & Butlers to improve.

“A properly balanced board, with sufficient independence, is a cornerstone of good corporate governance. 

“In our view, board independence has deteriorated significantly, and demonstrably so. 

“The senior independent director left the board at the end of 2018 and a replacement has yet to be appointed.

“In addition, board diversity in relation to gender has not improved as there remains only one female non-executive director. 

“The chair of the board is also chair of the nominations committee and so responsibility lies with him on these vital areas of board effectiveness, succession and diversity.

“Effective stewardship requires both an engaged board and engaged shareholders.

“As shareholders, we have undertaken, and will continue to undertake, our stewardship duties responsibly.

“Today, we call on the board of Mitchells & Butlers to urgently do the same.

“We are encouraged by the commitments made at the 2019 Annual General Meeting to begin to address some of our concerns and will continue to engage with the board on these matters.”