UK - Pensions & Investment Research Consultants (PIRC) has urged Marks & Spencer (M&S) to separate its chair and chief executive roles, after large institutional investors voted against the re-election of Stuart Rose to the board of directors.
Last week, the £20bn (US$39.7bn) Railway pension scheme Railpen, the £30bn Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), the €215bn Dutch ABP fund and the UK's Co-operative Investments announced their intention to vote against the company's annual report and accounts (www.globalpensions.com, 3 July 2008).
Alan MacDougall, managing director of PIRC, which represents pension funds and fund managers with combined assets of over £750bn, said: "The size of today's vote would be significant if were against any director, let alone the head of an iconic business, and demonstrates the depth of investor unease.
"This vote is a clear signal from M&S shareholders that they have serious reservations about the company's decision to ignore well-established best practice. We urge the company to revert to separated chair and chief executive roles as soon as is practicable."
MacDougall claimed the decision to combine the roles was sprung on investors without proper prior consultation.
He said: "The M&S board needs to acknowledge the clear message shareholders have given it today, and work with investors to address the situation."
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