Solomon Lew has won his long-running battle to remove Myer chair Garry Hounsell, with the retail billionaire saying the department store has lost its way.
Solomon Lew has won his long-running battle to remove Myer chair Garry Hounsell, with the retail billionaire saying the department store has lost its way.

Billionaire wins long-running Myer battle

Retail billionaire Solomon Lew has won his battle to topple Myer chair Garry Hounsell.

Myer this morning announced Mr Hounsell would not seek re-election for the chair position and retire from the department store chain's board.

Mr Hounsell was set to stand for re-election as chair at Myer's general meeting scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

Mr Hounsell said he was retiring after it became clear that Myer's two largest shareholders - Mr Lew and fund manager Geoff Wilson - would not vote for his re-election.

"I will not allow my ongoing tenure as chairman to be a distraction to the hard work of the executive team," Mr Hounsell said in a statement on Thursday.

Mr Lew's Premier Investments, which owns Smiggle, Just Jeans and Peter Alexander, is the largest shareholder in Myer with a 10.8 per cent stake.

Solomon Lew. Picture: Aaron Francis
Solomon Lew. Picture: Aaron Francis

 

Mr Wilson's fund, Wilson Asset Management, is the second-biggest shareholder with a 7.8 per cent stake.

Mr Hounsell said Myer had pursued a clear strategy that has strengthened the department store during his three years as chair.

"Throughout my tenure, we have been resolutely focused on delivering for customers and improving the performance of the business - and we have been determined not to allow anything to distract us from that mission," he said.

Myer board member JoAnne Stephenson has been appointed acting chair while a global search is undertaken to find a replacement for Mr Hounsell.

Ms Stephenson said: "It is essential that John King and Myer's management team are able to execute the strategy during the all-important peak trading period, between Black Friday and January's Stocktake Sale, without further disruption and it is hoped that my appointment as Acting Chairman will enable this to occur."

Mr Lew has waged a long campaign to topple Mr Hounsell and the Myer board after buying into the retailer at $1.15 a share in early 2017.

Myer's share dropped 6.2 per cent to 22c in early trade on Thursday.

The Melbourne-based retail billionaire has more recently widened his attack and called for Mr King to stand down.

Mr Lew, who has said Myer has lost its way, secured strikes against its remuneration report in 2017 and again in 2018 but failed to convert that into a board spill.

Mr Wilson has historically supported the Myer board - calling in 2018 for Mr Lew to stop "throwing stones" - but has since taken a harder line.

Last month he pressured Myer to reduce the number of people sitting on its board as well as director fees.

 

john.dagge@news.com.au

@johndagge

Originally published as Solomon Lew wins long-running Myer battle