BREAKING NEWS: Move To Sack Harvey Norman CEO After ‘Bizarre” Claim
A move is being made to sack the CEO of Harvey Norman a $5.2 billion dollar Company who stand accused of failing to rotate their board positions.
Corporate Australia, proxy firm Ownership Matters has advised its clients to vote against the re-election of Harvey Norman chief executive Katie Page the wife of Chairman Gerry Harvey according to an exclusive story in the Australian.
Page who is seen as a leader among female executives is set to face a hostile annual general meeting on November 27.
Ms Page, who as Harvey Norman’s chief executive for the past two decades has been credited with overseeing its successful expansion domestically and overseas, said she was equally stunned by the recommendations.
“Let me get this straight? OM want to replace a woman with tonnes of retail experience, loads of management skills and board experience with a bloke who has none of that, and who is running on an agenda of greater board diversity? Go figure,” she said.
A report sent to investors has recommended that Stephen Mayne be elected to the board of the retailer, even though the 50-year-old has no corporate experience in retail or property, no corporate board experience and no corporate management experience.
Mr Mayne, the founder of the Crikey news website, has described himself as “Australia’s most unsuccessful candidate”, having put his name forward for election to a listed board 49 times — including at BHP Billiton, Commonwealth Bank, Telstra, Woolworths, David Jones, NRMA Insurance, OZ Minerals, Southern Cross Broadcasting, Macquarie Group, Santos, Ten Network Holdings, NAB, Fairfax Media and News Corp Australia, publisher of the Australian.
Billionaire co-founder Gerry Harvey who is the largest shareholder, retaining direct ownership of almost a third of the company has hit out at the move describing it as “bizarre”.
He told the Australian “I have been on a public company board as chairman since 1972, and I have never seen anything as bizarre as the fact that the best retail executive in Australia is to be replaced by a ratbag called Stephen Mayne who has been a proven failure … every time he’s run for a board seat,” Mr Harvey told The Australian.
He questioned the credibility of Ownership Matters and the sanity of anyone who heeded their recommendations.
Others have described Mayne as a “publicity seeking joke” who pulls publicity stunts at annual general meetings to get publicity.
“If a board member of an industry fund takes notice of that sort of recommendation from a proxy adviser, then you would have to question their sanity because it would be beyond belief that they would take notice of that,” Mr Harvey said.
“But if they (clients of Ownership Matters) take this advice, they should forfeit their right to sit on any superannuation board or any board in this country.”
Ironically even Stephen Mayne who is not shy when seeking publicity was stunned by the naming of him.
“Wow, that’s news to me,” he said on Thursday of the advice to elect him to the board.
“It’s pretty obvious I’m an independent director but, let’s face it, it’s all academic. It doesn’t matter what (Ownership Matters) say, it’s a controlled company so I won’t get elected.”
While he maintained he was a suitable candidate to bring an independent voice to the Harvey Norman board, Mr Mayne disagreed with any suggestion Ms Page be removed from the board.
“There’s not a problem with Katie,” he said. “I think it’s good she put herself up for election when she didn’t have to. Katie should be the only one on the board who is safe.”
A freelance journalist and former Melbourne City councillor, Mr Mayne holds 23 shares in Harvey Norman, valued at about $100, but said he would invest heavily if elected.
“I would buy more than $100,000 worth of shares the first week,” he said. “I absolutely believe in directors having skin in the game.
“Most directors don’t have any shares when they join a board, so I have more shares than your average entering director.”