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Dunkerton to pledge to retain shares if he is reinstated at Superdry

Lauretta Roberts
12 March 2019

Superdry co-founder Julian Dunkerton is expected to pledge to retain his 18% stake in the business for at least two years if shareholders agree to re-instate him to the fashion plc's board.

Dunkerton has been waging a campaign for months to be allowed back to the business he left just under a year ago, as its shares have lost 75% of their value in the past year and profits have plunged.

According to Sky News, Dunkerton has written to shareholders saying he will hold on to his stake if they back his return and while he has not been explicit, the implication is that he may offload his shares if his campaign to return fails. Dunkerton is backed in his bid by fellow co-founder James Holder who holds a 9% stake.

Dunkerton has been lobbying shareholders since the autumn to support his reinstatement at director level but the board of the business have resisted his requests and this week released a stinging rebuke saying Dunkerton's return "would be extremely damaging to the company and its prospects."

Dunkerton has taken issue with Superdry's strategy to reduce the number of lines it sells and to reduce its reliance on outerwear. He believes the company should increase its product lines to compete with online fashion giants like ASOS but the Superdry board, led by CEO Euan Sutherland, said that Dunkerton’s strategy would “fail”, be “divisive” and reintroduce a leadership style that does not fit within the “open-minded collaborative culture, values and operation of the company”.

The board claimed that Dunkerton had overseen the AW18/19 collection before his departure in March last year and that collection had bombed in the stores. Dunkerton denies this. Superdry directors have also threatened to resign en masse if Dunkerton is returned to the business.

In response Dunkerton has stepped up his campaign pointing out that the board only owns 0.25% of the company's shares. He is also seeking to have outgoing Boohoo chairman Peter Williams installed as an independent director, which the Superdry board have also rejected.

However in an "independence statement" Williams insisted his role would not be to act as a representative of Dunkerton and Holder and says he was introduced to Dunkerton only two months ago by a mutual connection at a reputable corporate broking bank.

Williams' statement appears on the website which Dunkerton has established to publish information about his campaign and which is directed at fellow Superdry shareholders. In an open letter on its homepage Dunkerton says: "Since I left the business in March 2018, the company and the brand have been devastated through a misguided strategy." He also points out the the company has had products on sale for 48 of the past 52 weeks.

A shareholder meeting has been requisitioned for 2 April at which point a vote will be held on whether in reinstate Dunkerton and also to install Williams, who is a seasoned retail leader having previously been CEO of Selfridges and chairman of ASOS, among other high profile roles.

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