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“Are You A Sexual Predator” Asks Gerry Harvey As AGM Becomes A Slug Fest

A defiant Harvey Norman Chairman Gerry Harvey has come out swinging after what one share said were “tossers” who tried to take down his wife Katie Page the CEO at the big retailers AGM.

Gerry who is known for his outspoken comments rode out a hostile shareholder meeting yesterday. At one stage he asked a dissident shareholder “Are you a sexual predator?” when under pressure over the way the big retailer is run.

Activists claim that the board should not only dump CEO Katie Page but directors David Ackery and John Slack-Smith replacing them with two independent directors.

Gerry Harvey took these claims head-on and the sparks flew.

Anybody who didn’t agree with him got a big serve.

I’m not going to be bullied by anybody, I’m not going to be intimidated by anybody,” Mr Harvey told The Australian Financial Review after the showdown.

Anyone who questions the way that he and Katie Page along with Ackery and Slack-Smith run the big retailer was described as ‘deluded’ activist shareholders and proxy advisers “with no common sense”.

Those who tried to take him on saw their questions cut off mid-sentence, proxy advisors and others dubbed “idiots”.

This was vintage Gerry Harvey in full stride.

“When I’m not performing then sure, I’ve got to listen more to people, but if I’m performing really well and my board’s performing really well, all I’ve got to do is keep it up, don’t change it, it’s working,” he said after claiming that Harvey Norman’s has delivered an 18.2 per cent average annual return over the last 30 years.

He claims that “We’re amongst the top [performing] public companies ever in this country so how can there be corporate governance issue. We feel the way we do it is far superior.”

One person in his sights has been activist Stephen Mayne a journalist and $100 shareholder in Harvey Norman who proxy advisers Ownership Matters in a major publicity stunt advocated should be voted onto the board despite his lack of retail expertise.

The bid by activists to eject Harvey Norman chief executive Katie Page from the board at the company’s meeting failed spectacularly after she received a 90.8 per cent vote in favour of her re-election.

Harvey Norman did incur a second strike against its remuneration report but avoided a board spill after institutional shareholders decided spilling the entire board was a bridge too far.

While 47.5 per cent of shares voted were against the remuneration report, triggering a second strike after a 50.6 per cent “no” vote last year, only 11.1 per cent of shares supported a spill.

Harvey Norman Director John Slack Smith

The vote came after Harvey Norman’s revealed its offshore operations across Europe and Asia were the star performers for the retailer after it was revealed that the Australian operation the quarter revealed flat sales growth Vs almost double-digit like for like sales improvements in Slovenia, Croatia and Ireland.

The sales update shows total sales in Australia were up 0.6 per cent for the period and up only 0.4 per cent in like-for-like sales.

For the period to October, total sales in New Zealand rose 7 per cent, up 9 per cent in Slovenia and Croatia and up 8.8 per cent in Ireland. In Northern Ireland, total sales rose 10.9 per cent and up 17.1 per cent in Malaysia. In Singapore, sales fell by 8.1 per cent.

On comparable sales, Slovenia and Croatia were up 8.9 per cent, Ireland sales up 8.8 per cent and Northern Ireland up 10.9 per cent. Like for like sales were up 4.2 per cent in Malaysia and down 5.4 per cent in Singapore.

Harvey Norman shares, which have risen 39 per cent this year to three-year highs, slipped 0.7 per cent to $4.29.

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