Harvey Norman co-founder Gerry Harvey (Image: AAP/Aman Sharma)

Stephen Mayne, activist shareholder and founder of this esteemed publication, found himself in The Australian’s crosshairs this morning, after a super fund adviser recommended his appointment to the Harvey Norman board.

In a report, Ownership Matters encouraged its investor clients to vote against Katie Page, Harvey Norman’s chief executive and wife of co-founder Gerry Harvey, at the company’s upcoming AGM. 

The news did not go down well with Harvey, who lashed out at Mayne in The Australian. 

“I have never seen anything as bizarre as the fact that the best retail executive in Australia is to be replaced by a ratbag called Stephen Mayne who has been a proven failure,” he said.

Meanwhile, columnist Janet Albrechtsen labelled Mayne an “activist clown”, whose appointment marked “the moment wokeness lost its way”, warning that activists were trying to implement a “collectivist social agenda”.

Speaking to Crikey, Mayne hit back at Harvey and The Australian, dismissing the attacks as “unhinged ranting”. 

“It’s the billionaire’s support club, Murdoch and Harvey,” Mayne said “Gerry’s [Harvey] called in a favour to commission an editorial hatchet-job.”

Mayne, who has notched up 49 unsuccessful runs for a spot on the board of a major company, told Crikey he’s running on a platform of transparency and good governance. He pointed to the company’s lack of independent directors, history of protest votes, and a recent capital raise that “deliberately ripped off their small shareholders” as issues influencing his decision to run.

The Australian characterised Mayne and Ownership Matters’ plea for greater diversity as hypocritical, given it would involve replacing a respected female executive with a man. 

But Mayne reiterated his support for Page staying on, and argued the Oz’s diversity attacks were a “complete diversion”. 

All this outrage is likely for naught. Given Gerry Harvey and the board control half the votes, Mayne believes his chances of getting elected are “remote”.

Ownership Matters agrees, and told the Oz he stood a “snowflake’s chance in hell of being elected”.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey