Superdry urges shareholders to vote against co-founder

Superdry

The war of words is heating up at Cheltenham-based Superdry, as the retailer’s board urges shareholders to vote against appointing co-founder Julian Dunkerton a director of the business (and its largest shareholder), at a general meeting to be held on April 2. 

In strong statement released today the board ‘unanimously recommends shareholders vote against the appointments of Julian Dunkerton and Peter Williams as directors’.

Dunkerton is keen to return to the retailer’s board to reverse a sharp drop in sales having stepped down from the board last year.

The Superdry statement seems to heap the blame for the underperformance of its Autumn/Winter 2018 range entirely on Dunkerton. It says: “Mr Dunkerton, as the Company’s Brand and Product Director (the role he wants to return to), had prime executive responsibility for the design direction, range selection and range build of the Autumn/Winter 2018 range, which contributed to the Company’s underperformance in FY19, and which was representative of underlying issues in the approach to product and innovation. Mr Dunkerton has failed to accept any responsibility for the Autumn/Winter 2018 range, even going as far as to claim that he had no involvement despite extensive and detailed evidence to the contrary.”

The statement goes on to detail the many business impacts that a return by Dunkerton would have, including reintroducing ‘a leadership style that does not fit within the open-minded collaborative culture, values and operation of the Company’ and leading to ‘dysfunctional relationships with the Board and management; and damage morale across the business and cause departures of key personnel, including from within the Board.’

Strong institutional shareholder support for current strategy and management and no support for Mr Dunkerton’s return: Institutional shareholders have voiced strong support for current strategy and management team; none of them has indicated to the Board any support for Mr Dunkerton’s return to the Company.

Dunkerton has confirmed to the Board he wants an executive role responsible for product, brand and marketing. Peter Williams is nominated as an independent non-executive director. However the Superdry board says it is clear that he is being nominated to represent the interests of Mr Dunkerton and Mr Holder “and is not independent and does not represent the interests of all shareholders equally.”