The brewer Adnams has been criticised by one of its shareholders for the way it has expanded the business over recent years, including the launch of its Cellar & Kitchen retail chain.
Guinness Peat Group (GPG) said there was “persistent and growing shareholder dissatisfaction” over the running of the business by its founding family.
In a letter sent to fellow shareholders before Monday's annual meeting and shown to the press, GPG points the finger for the company's disappointing recent performance on investments made by chairman and former managing director Jonathan Adnams.
That included an £8m modernisation programme at the brewery and a new £6m distribution centre – both of which have won awards for their green credentials.
GPG said Adnams’ 2008 results, in which operating profits collapsed by two-thirds, were “so poor as to suggest that the substantial expansionary investment projects sanctioned by the board since 2000 have actually weakened rather than strengthened Adnams's traditional brewing and pub businesses in East Anglia”.
It also questions the rationale for developing facilities aimed at turning Adnams' eponymous ale into a national brand, adding: “It is plain that the background of a falling national beer market is not conducive to an expansionist strategy.”
The investor also criticises the brewer's launch of Cellar&Kitchen, a chain of shops selling kitchenware and wine. It describes the venture as “far removed from the company's core competencies as a regional brewer and owner of pubs”.
Jonathan Adnams dismissed many of the claims as “inaccurate” and said the company’s strategy was focused on “maximising long-term value for all shareholders”.