Premier Foods boss Gavin Darby faces fresh calls to quit ahead of an exceedingly tense showdown with the Mr Kipling owner’s shareholders this week. Former Rank Hovis McDougall executive chairman Paul Wilkinson added to ranks criticising Darby, saying “he’s a nice lad, but he should just go”, describing the company’s current state as “zombieland” (Telegraph).
Ahead of Premier’s AGM on Wedesnday, the Financial Times (£) writes, “but even if this is not the right time for asset sales, it could be the right time for Mr Darby to be planning a graceful exit. Proxy firms, Pirc and Glass Lewis along with ISS, advise voting for Mr Darby at the meeting, but the “qualified support” of ISS is distinctly unenthusiastic.”
The biggest shareholder in Premier Foods, Japan’s Nissin Foods, has swung its weight behind the company’s embattled boss as he prepares for a crunch vote on his future (Sunday Times £). Darby told the paper that this week was one of the most significant of his career and personal life, with his daughter’s wedding shortly after the AGM. He said, “the speech is mostly written — it needs to be refined this weekend. Professionally, of course, the AGM is important. But I’m quietly confident we will win.”
The US retail giant Walmart has been granted a patent for an audio surveillance system that would allow it to eavesdrop on workers and use the data to evaluate them (Sunday Times £). The proposed surveillance system could one day be used to improve customer satisfaction at Walmart’s supermarkets — at the cost of the privacy of its workers.
The consumer goods giant behind Dove and Marmite has opened talks with the trust established by one of the group’s founders as part of a shareholder charm offensive aimed at abolishing its UK headquarters. Sky News reports that Unilever and the Leverhulme Trust are discussing the unification of the company’s legal structure into a single entity based in the Netherlands.
Wine maker Chapel Down has given its US distribution partner the chance to buy thousands of its shares as its fizz proves a hit with Americans (Daily Mail). Consultancy firm ABCK Corp has been encouraged to take up 536,000 of share options at 88.5p each in the English sparkling wine maker over the next four years in a bid by Chapel Down to share its overseas success with its US partner.
Johnson & Johnson has been told to pay almost $4.7 billion to 22 women who claimed that they developed ovarian cancer by using Johnson’s baby powder (The Times £).
The biggest brewing company in Wales has blamed Brexit uncertainty and the loss of a key contract with Heineken for a slump in sales. SA Brain, the family-owned pub group behind beers such as The Rev James and SA, took a £13m hit after it lost a brewing contract with the Dutch drinks giant (Sunday Times).
The estranged former boss of Stobart Group and several employees are threatening separate legal actions against the owner of Southend airport over a long-running corporate dispute (Sunday Times £).
Debenhams is seeking to reassure the City it is in financial good health after a top credit insurer cut cover to suppliers of the troubled retail chain (Telegraph).