Dignity hits out at largest shareholder amid battle for control of the board

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Dignity PLC (LON:DTY) criticised its largest shareholder, Phoenix UK Fund, for making public some of the strategy plans being proposed by the funeral company as the two sides continue their boardroom battle.


One of the fund’s proposals is for Dignity to spin out its crematoria business, while retaining a majority holding, to raise capital and highlight the value of the remaining Dignity shares. This division would be worth over GBP1bn, Phoenix said in a statement yesterday as it outlined its vision for the business.


“The independent directors find the statements made by Phoenix relating to possible strategies (and public reference to unverified valuations for the Crematoria division, in particular) to be deeply irresponsible,” Dignity responded in a statement today.


“There are significant nuances to any strategic plan of this nature before it can be made public,” it said.


Phoenix wants to remove Clive Whiley as executive chairman of Dignity and replace him with its own founder and chief investment officer Gary Channon. It has threatened to cease its involvement in the funeral company if it is unsuccessful.


“That Phoenix has chosen to “go public” on these matters prematurely serves only as a further illustration of the lack of suitability of Gary Channon to be appointed as someone responsible for the executive function of the company,” Dignity’s independent directors said.


READ: Dignity’s largest shareholder slams chairman as boardroom spat intensifies


Dignity shareholders will vote on proposal to remove Whiley at a general meeting on April 21.


“Not for the first time since the board convened the general meeting to consider the resolutions proposed, Phoenix has made ill-advised public statements which have been self-serving and have had little regard for the wider interests of shareholders and other stakeholders,” Dignity said.


It said that many of the ideas disclosed in Phoenix’s most recent letter are already being assessed in detail by the board.


“The board is well-advanced in its detailed planning towards the announcement of a fully thought-through strategy plan, including the possibility of a distribution of the Crematoria business to existing shareholders on a pro rata basis.


“It was always intended that the board would announce its vision for the company at the time of the company’s AGM in June 2021 and this has been indicated to the market for some time,” it said.

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