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Rothschild hit by epic defeat

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CATHY ADAMS

BUMI co-founder Nat Rothschild yesterday suffered an embarrassing defeat at the coal miner’s EGM, with 19 out of 22 proposals for a board overhaul flattened by shareholders in a public City showdown after months of increasingly bitter exchanges.

Rothschild, who arrived at the extraordinary meeting with his mother Lady Serena Rothschild, proposed last month ousting 12 out of the 14 current Bumi directors and bringing in a team of his own.

Investors yesterday chose to back the current Bumi board, with more than 61 per cent of stakeholders supporting incumbent chief executive Nick von Schirnding and the deputy chairman director Sir Julian Horn-Smith.

Rothschild’s proposed appointment as an executive director was rejected by 63 per cent of investors, which marked the weightiest defeat of all the resolutions.

The outcome of the EGM, held at the Honourable Artillery Company on City Road yesterday morning, will see two current Bumi board members – former chief executive Nalin Rathod and independent non-executive director Jean-Marc Mirzhai – step down.

In a narrow victory, one of Rothschild’s proposed new team, former British ambassador to Indonesia Sir Richard Gozney, has been voted onto the Bumi board.

In a statement following the results of the meeting, the FTSE 250 coal miner welcomed Sir Richard’s appointment and the “decision of shareholders to support the board on substantially all resolutions”.

The board will now speed up the divorce of Bumi Resources from the London-listed Bumi PLC, as well as a restructuring of the board, which will be “pursued with a sense of urgency”.

“The board will be re-structured and will be significantly smaller while retaining a majority of independent directors,” the firm said last night.

Speaking at the EGM, von Schirnding said that the agreement signed last week with the Bakries, which saw them put $50m (?33m) in a ringfenced account for the buyback of Bumi Resources, was a “tangible step forward” for shareholders.

The powerful Indonesian investors last night welcomed the outcome of the meeting.

Hedge fund veteran Rothschild, also speaking last night, labelled the result a “pyrrhic victory” for the Bumi board, adding that a “substantial majority” of non-aligned shareholders voted for his proposals.

Calling again for the full release of the probe by law firm Macfarlanes, the financier added that he will continue to remain a shareholder of Bumi, and he will “continue to fight for the rights of the minority independent shareholders”.

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