Esprit's now-largest shareholder demands CEO exit
Retailer Esprit could be facing a boardroom fight as a new investor seeks to oust the company’s CEO, former New Look chief Anders Christian Kristiansen. He's currently leading a restructuring drive at the struggling company that has seen it closing stores and exiting its Asia retail business.
The company, which is listed in Hong Kong despite its biggest operations being in Europe, had revealed that North Point Talent Ltd is now its biggest shareholder, having built up a stake of almost 13%.
North Point wants an urgent extraordinary shareholder meeting to try to get rid of Kristiansen and director Johannes Georg Schmidt-Schultes. It also wants to see Marc Andreas Tschirner, Christian Chiu and Wai Wong appointed as executive directors.
North Point, an investment vehicle controlled by Vitasoy heiress Karen Lo, previously had a stake of less than 5% in the company with its new purchase costing it US$17 million.
There has been speculation that Lo’s move could eventually lead to a takeover bid.
However, the fact that the business in Germany – its biggest market – is in court-protected administration could complicate matters. Esprit closed down its Asia retail business this year and last week announced plans to cut over 1,000 jobs and close 50 stores in Germany.
But while the pandemic will have played its part in that, the company has been struggling for many years and has launched a number of turnaround programs in the last decade.
Meanwhile, Esprit management said: “We welcome the new increased shareholding of North Point Talent. Our track record demonstrates that we are always ready to having an open and transparent dialogue with our shareholders about our business strategy. We are surprised about the proposition to remove the Executive Directors from the company. Esprit is right now at a crucial moment as we are just starting the implementation of our restructuring initiatives in our biggest market Germany, after the opening of the proceedings announced last week.”
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