The battle for control of fashion retailer Superdry has descended into “dirty tricks” hours before investors choose whether to reappoint co-founder Julian Dunkerton to the board.
Lawyers for Dunkerton warned Superdry yesterday about making alleged defamatory statements about him to shareholders.
Law firm Debevoise & Plimpton reportedly issued the warning after chairman and chief executive Peter Bamford and Euan Sutherland cited Dunkerton’s behaviour during his time at the retailer in a bid to persuade a shareholder to vote in their favour. The fight for control had become a “dirty tricks campaign”, a source told Sky News.
The precise allegations and the identity of the investor are unclear, although Superdry detailed concerns over Dunkerton’s leadership style in a circular to shareholders last month, saying that his management position did “not fit within the open-minded collaborative culture, values and operation of the company”.
Dunkerton is not seeking the resignation of Bamford or Sutherland, but the retailer said that its entire board would resign if his bid to return were to be successful.
Dunkerton, who left the business a year ago, has accused the board of wiping out shareholder value by heavy discounting and poor product decisions.
Superdry and Dunkerton have both been courting shareholders ahead of today’s vote on whether to appoint Dunkerton and former Boohoo chair Peter Williams to the board. Superdry was forced to convene the general meeting at which the vote will be held at Dunkerton’s request.
Dunkerton, who together with co-founder James Holder has a 29% share, is expected to be supported by Schroders and Investec Asset Management, who hold just over 10%.
Earlier bids of support from Aberdeen Standard Investments and proxy advisors ISS and Glass Lewis have recommended backing Dunkerton and Superdry respectively.
Retail Week understands that Dunkerton has added two more top 20 investors to his roster in recent days. The battle for control is on a knife edge with investors voting at 11:30am today.