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Prestbury clash over restructure

Prestbury shareholders are demanding the removal of chief executive Lee Birkett and his mother from the board after they refused to agree to a restructure proposed by the firm’s chairman, Tory Shadow minister Francis Maude.

Speaking to Money Marketing this week while on a trip to Africa, Maude said he felt the shareholders would agree to Birkett remaining in his role and also be supportive of Birkett’s plans to de-list the network if he agreed to a proposed restructure to allow more non-executives on to the board.

But Birkett has rejected the proposed restructure as he believes it would lead to too many independent board members without close knowledge of industry issues such as treating customers fairly.

This week, shareholders representing 22 per cent of the firm called an extraordinary gen- eral meeting to ask for the removal of Birkett and his mother, finance director Lynne Birkett, on the grounds that they have lost confidence in the corporate governance of the network and that there are too many conflicts of interest between members of the executive team.

Prestbury has this week been restored to Aim after it was suspended on June 27 due to delays in publishing its results.

The results revealed a £1m loss, including a £850,000 writedown on a related third-party loan to Prestbury Investment Management, a packager that was part of the network but is now wholly owned by Lee Birkett and Stephen Keenan, Prestbury’s ex-chief operating officer.

Birkett says he is confident he has the support of the majority of shareholders and that the resolution calling for his removal would not be carried at the EGM on August 20.

Talks surrounding a pot- ential management buy- out of Prestbury by Birkett and fellow executive directors, which could have seen the mortgage network delisted from Aim, were ended by the non-executives in March.

Maude, Tory Shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, says: “I understand the arguments for not being listed on Aim but outside shareholders feel it offers protection due to the disclosure requirements.”


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