Running for the Gunns board in 2005

By Stephen Mayne
January 14, 2008

This ran in Crikey the day after an unsuccessful tilt at the Gunns board in October 2005.

Seeing as The Age and The SMH this week both published Crikey's full inglorious list of failed board tilts over the years, we may as well do the same to put yesterday's predictably unsuccessful run at the Gunns board in context. The following figures are all "primary votes" reflecting proxies lodged 48 hours before a meeting and ignoring votes that abstain or are undirected:

Woolworths 2000 54.74%
NRMA 2000 45.59%
Commonwealth Bank 2000 39.71%
AMP 2000 33.89%
WA News 2000 28.41%
John Fairfax 2001 20.58%
ASX 2002 18.7%
Gunns 2005 14.7%
Telstra 2000 14.65%
ASX 2000 13.52%
News Corp 2002 12.89%
David Jones 2000 11.46%
AMP 2003 11.41%
PMP 2001 11.24%
ASX 2001 10.69%
National Australia Bank 2000 9.14%
Telstra 2001 4.76%
Southern Cross Broadcasting 2001 3.85%
Axa Asia Pacific 2001 1.1%
Westfield Holdings 2000 0.37%

The Gunns primary vote of 14.7% was slightly below the long term batting average of just 18% but comes in at number 8 overall. The top five results all came in 2000 when some institutions were still donkey voting down the page, having never before voted against board candidates.

To put a positive spin on things, the Gunns result was the best since the ASX board tilt in 2002. That makes it the best in three years, but also the first in two-and-a-half-years as the demoralising 11.41% vote at AMP in May 2003 was the last public company tilt before Gunns.

The next election will be the John Fairfax board in three weeks and the challenge will be to beat the 20.58% result achieved in 2001. Fairfax is actually the most logical public company board for me to sit on given direct journalism and internet experience, something the rest of the board lacks. I've even had an institution emailing me to discuss the tilt, something that has rarely happened in the previous 20 tilts.

Check out the Gunns election results here. It was encouraging that the two incumbents, Cornells van der Kley (91.66%) and David McQuestin (91.86%) received the lowest percentage votes for directors in the company's history. The previous lowest was 97.26% for McQuestin in 2002.

That's progress folks, albeit from a very low base.