Schroders and Investec win Superdry leadership battle

The asset management groups engaged extensively prior to casting their votes


Joe McGrath

Schroders and Investec Asset Management have triumphed in the battle to decide the future leadership team of clothing retailer Superdry.

The two fund groups were among the investors to back a return of co-founder Julian Dunkerton, who left the business last year. The move put them on a collision course with rival Aberdeen Standard Investments, which was seeking to back the current management team and prevent Dunkerton’s return.

At the extraordinary general meeting on Tuesday (2 April), Dunkerton’s return was approved by a wafer-thin margin, with 50.75% of votes cast to re-elect him and the majority of the remaining votes against.

Former boss Dunkerton left the business in 2018, but has since watched as the revenue from the company’s high street stores declined. In the 13 weeks to the end of January 2019, Superdry reported a decline in store revenues to £126.8m from £138.6m in 2018.

Investors in favour of Dunkerton’s return said their decision was based on extensive engagement with both former and current management teams and explained that they saw the co-founder as a key figure in stimulating innovation and an improvement in investor outcomes.

In a statement issued to ESG Clarity, a Schroders spokesperson said: “Having engaged extensively with both existing and proposed directors we chose to support Julian’s return to the business and its board.

“We have undertaken this on the basis of this being in the best interests of the company and our clients going forward.”

Chief executive Euan Sutherland and the Superdry board had encouraged investors to vote against a return of Dunkerton, asking them to embrace a forward-looking strategy for the group. Some investment managers, agreed. Last week, newspaper The Guardian reported that Aberdeen Standard Investments was in favour of backing the current management team.

In an emailed response, a Superdry spokeswoman said the final outcome of the meeting would be made public in due course and offered no further comment.

Investors initially responded positively to the announcement, with the share price climbing to 577.23p at 1140hrs, but these gains evaporated shortly after, falling to 524.50 at 1310hrs.

Aberdeen Standard Investments was unable to respond to a request for comment.

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