These are exciting times for a shareholder activist and yesterday we had the peak day of the year with meetings of Telstra, Coles and the Commonwealth Bank.
However, it was the opportunity to put Andrew Peacock, the new chairman of colourful Gold Coast property dealmakers MFS, through his paces which proved most rewarding.
MFS CEO and latterday white shoe brigade developer Mike King started with flattery – “we’ve really made it when Stephen Mayne comes to our AGM” and “Andrew Peacock introduces me to 10 important people a week”.
The Colt returned the favour with heady praise for King and called on him to answer most of the awkward questions.
After speculating that UBS has an unwanted debt exposure to MFS in Wednesday’s paper, it was remarkable that The AFR then failed to report King’s answer which can be summarised as: “Yep, they’ve lent us $800 million. Too bad if they couldn’t syndicate it but that’s their problem and I wish they’d given me better tips when they hosted me at the races on Saturday.”
We all turned up to hear whether the Stellar Group – which has come from nowhere to be Australia’s second biggest hotel chain with 15,000 rooms – would be flogged off to private equity firm CVC to pay down the UBS debt.
Alas, all we got was another delay until the precise date of 28 November and when asked why the Stellar CEO hadn’t turned up for his re-election, King said relations were just great and he was currently hosting his European directors in a restaurant in Amsterdam. Shouldn’t he be here finalising the sale?
The Kooyong Colt came up for a very friendly chat afterwards, presumably pleased that I’d supported his re-election and said he should be paid more than $250,000 a year. The former chairman Terry O’Dwyer objected to claims we need “more blue bloods” on the board to complement the Gold Coast lawyers and financial planner types who now suddenly fund themselves running a business capitalised at $2.4 billion.
The real highlight came with the resolutions on executive pay. After the remuneration report was only carried by the board shareholdings, Peacock’s 500,000 out of the money options were only carried 101 million to 98 million, even after about 50 million of insider chairs backed the Colt.
Mike King took the floor and declared this vote to be “disgraceful”, at which point he was counselled that insulting institutions who’d ponied up almost $500 million over the past year perhaps wasn’t the best approach. Everyone knows that options for non-executive directors are out.
After the fun of MFS it was down to Coles for the sad farewell. Despite the officious security the audio of my contributions can be found here.
Chairman Rick Allert wasn’t going to get sentimental so I was left to deliver the sad eulogy at the end of proceedings. The board then scurried out the back for a private lunch and massively under-catered for the masses in what was the final insult.
Check out Jack Tilburn boxing in today’s Mayne Report video.