New Myer chairman’s bombshell a ‘lie, fabrication’

Premier investments chairman Soloman Lew and CEO Mark McInnes pose for a photo on 25th Se[tember 2017. Picture by Wayne Taylor. AFR.Myer’s incoming chairman has claimed that Solomon Lew’s Premier Investment – a scathing critic of his ability to lead the department store’s board – once courted him for the same role.
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Garry Hounsell dropped the bombshell in a letter to Myer shareholders on Monday rebutting calls by Premier, its largest shareholder, to vote against all resolutions Myer puts forward at its annual general meeting on November 24.

That call includes voting against the appointment of Mr Hounsell, who Premier has pilloried for allegedly lacking retail experience, and two other directors.

Mr Hounsell fired back on Monday, revealing that the Premier board approached him to become its chairman prior to Mr Lew’s appointment to that role in 2008. He said he refused the 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?” he said.

But a Premier spokeswoman said Mr Hounsell’s claim was a “lie and a fabrication”, and that he had never been offered the chairmanship or even a directorship at Premier.

“This letter is yet another attempt by the Myer board to mislead its own shareholders,” she said.

Mr Hounsell said Mr Lew – who owns 43 per cent of listed rival retailer Premier – was “selling fear” and encouraging other shareholders to act against their own interests by asking them to appoint Premier as their proxy at Myer’s AGM.

He also accused Mr Lew of deliberately driving down Myer’s share price with his campaign of “hostility, disruption and criticism”.

“This may be in Premier and Mr Lew’s broader interests, but it is in our view against the interests of Myer shareholders,” he said.

Premier’s $100 million investment in Myer in March sparked speculation it was positioning for a takeover bid, but it has said it has no “current intention” of buying out the company.

Since March Myer’s shares have fallen more than 36 per cent – from $1.15?? to 73??.

Mr Lew has sought two seats and the appointment of a further independent director to the Myer board, but has so far been refused.

Myer say his position as both a supplier and competitor through his businesses, which include Premier and associated family companies which together generate almost $200 million in sales a year through Myer, represented an insurmountable conflict of interest.

Premier on Monday revealed a major shake-up to its own board, announcing the retirement in July 2018 of directors Lindsay Fox after 30 years service and Gary Weiss after 23 years.

Premier said it was reviewing potential directors to fill the vacancies.

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