Private equity group Laxey Partners yesterday completed a boardroom coup at Wyevale Garden Centres after it mustered enough votes to oust the chairman and two other directors.
At the second extraordinary general meeting forced by Laxey this year, it and hedge fund group Millennium Partners had enough votes to pass a series of resolutions designed to replace chairman David Williams with its own preferred candidate, Robert Ware.
Laxey, which holds a 28.3 per cent stake in Wyevale, has been trying to oust Mr Williams as chairman of the Hereford-based chain for much of 2005.
Wyevale, which has 114 sites across Britain, said last month that Mr Williams would step down, whatever the outcome of the attempt to remove him, but he had planned to remain in place until a successor was found.
A compromise proposal to appoint Mr Ware, a former chairman of Stead & Simpson shoe stores and Threshers, as a non-executive director was rejected by Laxey, prompting an angry response from Wyevale.
The future of other board members remains in question, not least after a statement announcing the news and signed by chief executive Gary Favell and finance director Steve Murfin.
The statement said: "It was particularly pleasing to note that once again, excluding Laxey Partners and Millennium Partners, over 95 per cent of shareholders who voted remained in favour of the board."
Following the removal of Mr Williams, the Wyevale board appointed Jim Hodkinson, the chairman of both chairman of both Furniture Village and Ideal Shopping Direct as its new chairman.
During a 26-year career at B&Q, the 61- year-old built it into Europe's largest and most profitable DIY retailer, with annual turnover now over £4 billion.
From 1998 to 2000, Jim was chief executive of fashion retailer New Look Group, and has also served on the board of toy retailer Hamleys.
Mr Hodkinson said he hoped to bring an end to the rows and wrangles of the next few months.
"This is a business with a lot of potential and one which I know well.
"After all the discord of the last 12 months, I also believe that this is the right moment for a reconstituted board, now including a representative of our major shareholder Laxey, to come together to take a fresh view of the company's position.
"It is in the clear interest of all our shareholders to see a major improvement in the profitability of the company's retailing activities."
Wyevale warned earlier that annual profits would be flat on marginally lower sales, sending its shares lower.
"We expect profits before exceptionals for the year to be no greater than last year," Wyevale told shareholders at the meeting.
Wyevale said the retail environment had remained challenging since its last trading update on October 25 and like-for-like sales were expected to be marginally below last year.
But whether the appointment of Mr Hodkinson leads to an end to the infighting remains to be seen, with Laxey said to be reflecting on the appointment.
Later Richard Ratner, an analyst at Seymour Pierce, castigated Laxey for its tactics, and said the private shareholders were probably suffering from "voting fatigue."
He said: "Hopefully now all parties can work together to develop the business." ..SUPL: