Skandia chairman Bernt Magnusson has this morning announced his departure from the company, citing a board split over the bid from Old Mutual as the main reason for not staying.
Fellow director Lennart Jeansson has been appointed by the board to take over as chairman.
“I do not consider it right to continue to lead the work of the board when there are different opinions on an important and central issue,” Magnusson says in a statement released by Skandia.
”Now that the Board has decided to reject the offer for the company, it is natural and in Skandia’s best interests that I hand over the chairman’s gavel to someone who shares the opinion of the majority within the board, and can therefore fully represent the company’s position. As a consequence, I also consider it appropriate to leave the board.”
Today’s announcement may increase pressure on the remaining two directors who also voted to accept Old Mutual’s £3.3bn bid. In contrast, those who voted against the bid offer believe Skandia should fulfil implementation of a turnaround plan before deciding whether it can continue doing business as an independent company.
The decision is also likely to be taken as a signal by shareholders that the power struggle within Skandia is being won by those who wish to remain independent. It follows from news since the board rejected the offer on 23 September of institutional shareholders representing some 10% of the company’s owners publicly announcing the terms of the deal as they currently stand do not deserve support. Old Mutual previously said it wanted a 90% support rate from shareholders, but it may have to revisit that stated aim in coming days.
Of note is that all the institutions so far declared against the bid are based in Sweden. Magnusson and Jeansson said at a press conference on 23 September that the ownership of Skandia was split 50:50 between Swedish and foreign shareholders, although the exact split and number of shareholders was not known at that time. It is estimated there are some 100,000 smaller shareholders out of some 116,000 overall. Old Mutual has previously signalled it has sounded out shareholders representing about 60% of the company’s ownership.
Magnusson, who also holds key board positions with other well-known Swedish companies such as Volvo Cars Corporation, joined Skandia’s board in 2004. He holds 84,400 shares in the company, according to information on Skandia’s corporate website.
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