Julian Dunkerton’s quest to return to the business he founded has been dealt a blow by influential shareholder advisory firm ISS.

ISS has recommended that shareholders vote against co-founder and former chief executive Dunkerton’s reappointment to the Superdry board. 

It has also urged shareholders to oppose the appointment of his running mate, Boohoo chairman Peter Williams, at the April 2 extraordinary general meeting requisitioned by Dunkerton.

Superdry’s current management vehemently oppose Dunkerton’s return.

ISS said it believed Superdry’s problems had partly been caused by decisions made by Dunkerton and other management members. Dunkerton has refuted Superdry’s claim that his actions led to its current poor performance, saying he was routinely excluded from meetings.

Last year was a torrid 12 months for the branded fashion retailer. It was twice forced to warn on profits, which plunged 49% at its interims, and discounted product heavily during the all-important golden quarter. It blamed its woes on poor product innovation and unseasonably hot weather.

ISS said: “The company’s performance has been dragged down by sector issues and warm weather in 2018, though there are other issues that would appear particular to Superdry (e.g. online sales and innovation).

“The current issues, however, seem to have at least partially arisen as a result of combined decision-making by the management and Julian Dunkerton – one of the dissidents calling the EGM and also the co-founder and chief executive of the company previously.”

Dunkerton left the business in March last year but has called on shareholders to reappoint him to the board.

Dunkerton has been a vocal critic of Superdry management since he left the business and still holds a 19% stake in it.

He is seeking to become a non-executive director. Williams would be an independent non-executive director and, not being a representative of either Dunkerton or co-founder James Holder, “would bring his own voice to the board”.

Dunkerton has also set up a website, savesuperdry.com, which seeks to rally support.