The Bull

Thursday 14

December, 2017 3:10 PM



Myer and Premier's stoush heats up

Myer and Premier's stoush heats up

Incoming Myer chairman Garry Hounsell has been labelled a liar by the department store's biggest shareholder, Solomon Lew's Premier Investments.

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By AAP 07.11.2017 01:02 PM

Solomon Lew's Premier Investments says Myer chairman-elect Garry Hounsell's claim that he was once asked to be Premier's chairman is a lie.

Premier is Myer's largest shareholder and is urging fellow shareholders to vote against Mr Hounsell's appointment and two other directors at Myer's upcoming annual general meeting.

Mr Hounsell has ramped up his attack on Mr Lew with a letter to Myer shareholders in which he claims Premier, the owner of Smiggle, Peter Alexander and Dotti, once wanted him to be its chairman.

"Mr Lew is asking you to vote against me as your new chairman when the Premier board approached me to take the role of chairman at Premier in the past," Mr Hounsell said in the letter.

"I chose to refuse that approach. Why is Mr Lew trying to block me from acting as Myer's chairman when I was considered good enough to lead the Premier board?"

A spokeswoman for Premier said Mr Hounsell's claim was a "lie and a fabrication", which Mr Hounsell should withdraw.

"Myer is clearly rattled by the response we have had from retail shareholders to Premier's call for change to the Myer board, and they're now resorting to making things up," she said.

"To suggest that Solomon Lew would hand over the chairmanship of Premier to someone he only met for the first time on October 6 this year is just absurd."

Mr Hounsell also said Premier wants shareholders to reject a resolution that aims to protect Myer from a takeover, when Premier is putting up the same protection at its AGM in November.

"Why is it good enough for Premier but not good enough for you?," Mr Hounsell said in his letter.

Myer and Premier have been at loggerheads since the department store's board rejected Mr Lew's request to have two of his own representatives on the Myer board, plus an independent director.

Mr Hounsell said this would hand too much control to Premier, which has a conflict of interest as one of Myer's largest suppliers.

Premier has an almost 11 per cent share in Myer, which it bought in March, and the value of that stake has fallen sharply as Myer's revenue and profit continue to slide.

Mr Lew is critical of the "New Myer" five-year turnaround strategy that was launched two years ago, which includes store closures, smaller store sizes and a focus on wanted brands, as it has failed to halt Myer's declining sales.

Sales in the first quarter of the financial year dropped 2.8 per cent to $699 million, Myer said last week, and its comparable sales were down 2.1 per cent.

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