Hargreaves infuriates shareholders
Angry Matalan investors have lambasted chairman John Hargreaves for reneging on a pledge to resign unless the business improved.

Instead, they argue, Hargreaves has plunged the store group into uncertainty.

Hargreaves, Matalan's founder, promised in March 2003 as he parted company with then-chief executive Paul Mason that he would walk unless there was a turnaround under new management within two years.

However, three years later, and after a year when profits slumped from£80.5 million to£36.3 million, Hargreaves has infuriated shareholders by threatening a dividend cut. They fear an offer from him to buy back the business will not be at an acceptable price, while the departure of chief executive John King later this year is creating further uncertainty.

When King was appointed in 2003, Hargreaves promised: 'I will say now that if this doesn't work, I've got two years and then I'm out. My head could be on the block.'

One investor said: 'Everybody seems to have forgotten that he said that.'

Another City source said: 'You've got an owner-driver sticking two fingers up at the financial community and the board. Although there's an argument that the business has had its day, it has not been run well.'

Matalan held its AGM on Wednesday. Despite the opposition of one institutional investor - Harris Associates - Hargreaves was re-elected as chairman.

The retailer revealed flat like-for-likes in the nine weeks to July 1, when total growth fell 0.5 per cent. Matalan maintained its 3 per cent clothing market share.

Evolution analyst Nick Bubb said: 'Trading is tough, but things are stabilising.'