Shareholder activist, Melbourne City councillor and Crikey founder Stephen Mayne has lobbed in a bid for the Fairfax board.
It’s far from Mayne’s first such bid — he’s run for more than 40 different boards in the past and has also put his hand up for the Commonwealth Bank and Channel Ten this AGM season.
Mayne received correspondence yesterday afternoon from Fairfax that it would accept his bid. Fairfax general counsel and company secretary Gail Hambly wrote that Mayne’s 234-word statement on his reasons for running would be inserted into the company’s notice of meeting in full.
“In more than 40 board tilts,” Mayne told Crikey today, “I’ve never had a board agree to print and distribute a CV and platform that long before; 234 words is not War and Peace, but many companies re-write, shorten and exclude critical material.”
Mayne’s formal nomination letter outlines his media and corporate governance experience, and also makes some criticisms of Fairfax:
“Mr Mayne is offering himself as a director who would bring direct media experience and a strong understanding of corporate governance to the board.
“He also strongly believes in Fairfax and its directors remaining independent of its competitors and political influences and vigorously asserting that independence through its products and corporate activity.
“In light of the poor returns to shareholders in recent years, Mr Mayne believes long serving Fairfax Media directors should be held accountable and retire.
“If elected, Mr Mayne undertakes to work constructively and collegiately with the board and management team to maximise shareholder value in an environment of heightened governance and transparency.”
Mayne says Fairfax’s willingness to publish this material contrasts with his bid to sit on the board of News Corp in 2002. Then, he says, the entire statement was censored, and shareholders weren’t even told his age.
“Those contrasting approaches from Fairfax and News Corp, the two greatest commercial examiners of political elections in Australia, says something about their real approach to free speech,” Mayne said. “It’s not easy publishing critical material about yourself, but the Fairfax Media board deserves credit for their approach so far. No doubt, shareholders will also be given a lengthy screed about why the external candidate should be rejected. So long as this doesn’t spill onto the actual ballot paper, this approach is perfectly reasonable.”