Keeping the pressure on Spotless in 2003

By Stephen Mayne
January 9, 2008

Spotless have been a favourite target over the years and the AGM on November 12, 2003 was pretty lively.

Less then one hundred people turned up to the Spotless Group's AGM at Leonda by the Yarra, but the few who made the effort were not just there for the sandwiches.

The Chairman Brian Blythe had a taste of what was to come as a variety of shareholders questioned the clarity and accuracy of the annual report and financial statements at length.

One item of business which really caught the shareholders attention was the re-election of 77-year-old Ian McMullin as a director with two shareholders speaking strongly against his re-election and another two defending the work of McMullin.

McMullin founded the company in 1946, but as one of his very vocal opponents pointed out, since of the changes to age limit of directors in the Corporations Act, if McMullin was voted in for a full three year term, he would be 80 by the time he came up for re-election

The shareholder also questioned his usefulness on the board considering he has not been an executive of the company for over 30 years, she said to remain "beyond the retiring age of a judge is just greedy".

In addition to McMullin, concern was also expressed about the overall age, narrow experience and lack of independence of Spotless directors.

Blythe announced that while AFL President Ron Evans was retiring as CEO, he would continue as a non-executive director, and while Blythe himself was retiring as managing director of Spotless Group he too would become a non-executive director.

In fact the only person leaving Spotless was treasurer and company secretary, Wayne McDonald who is retiring in December.

As if anticipating shareholder concern about the board, Blythe acknowledged in his shareholder address that the board did not conform to ASX guidelines for independent directors in 2003 and probably would not for 2004 either.

On the topic of he and Evans continuation as directors, Blythe said the matter "has been canvassed with a number of major shareholders of the company who have confirmed their preference for continuity of our experience with the company."

Hmmm, given that three of the largest shareholders are messrs, McMullin, Evans and Blythe, we wonder if the canvassing extended any further to institutions.

Afterall, you've got to feel sorry for incoming CEO Peter Wilson, currently a US resident, who will have no less than three former managing directors looking over his shoulder when the model these days says that former CEOs should bow out completely to give the new bloke a clear run at the top job.

Don't expect Wilson to follow the lead of other new CEOs and hack away at carrying values in his first earnings result.

Read Brian Blythe's full address here: