Aberdeen Asset Management CEO Martin Gilbert has said he wants to oust Katherine Garrett-Cox as chief executive of the £2.1bn Alliance Trust, according to a report in the Telegraph.
Gilbert publicly stated yesterday he would “love the opportunity to pitch for the trust,” the report states.
He is expected to contact the Alliance trust board outlining Aberdeen’s strong track record running other trusts including Murray International.
"If we were given the opportunity, we would run Alliance with our other global portfolios out of our Edinburgh office," Gilbert said, according to the report.
Aberdeen would also offer to save Alliance shareholders money by undercutting Garrett-Cox (pictured)'s management fees. The trust has a TER of 0.98%, which has been subject of criticism from activist investor Laxey Partners, which has also lobbied for a discount control mechanism of the trust.
Laxey has demanded a wide-ranging review be undertaken of Alliance by its new non-executive chairman, Karin Forseke. On 13 March it notified the Alliance board of two resolutions to be put before its annual meeting on 27 April, which include appointing new, external fund managers to look after Alliance's portfolio, the Telegraph reports.
Last year Alliance Trust was embroiled in a bitter public spat with Laxey, which called for the firm to initiate more share buybacks in order to narrow the company's wide discount.
The activist called for Alliance Trust to introduce a discount control mechanism, but lost its campaign as in last May's AGM 67% of the trust's shareholders voted against the proposal. Alliance Trust chief executive Katherine Garrett-Cox vowed to reduce the trust's discount through share buybacks.
During 2011, the company repurchased £246m of stock, equivalent to 10.3% of its share capital, adding 1.7% to the NAV return, according to broker Numis.
However, with the discount still among the highest in its Global Growth peer group, Laxey argued more should be done to address the discrepancy between the company's shares relative to the net value of its assets.
A spokesperson for Alliance Trust responded: "The business has undergone considerable development since Laxey's proposals were defeated at last year's AGM."
"At our full year results we delivered top quartile Total Shareholder Return and our main priority remains to continue to improve the investment performance of the business."
In an exclusive interview with Investment Week last month, Garrett-Cox admitted the firm needs to drive up demand for its shares in order to reduce its discount.
"The biggest challenge for the trust is to drive increasing demand for our shares - we need to be a lot more confident about what sets us apart in the business we are in and get more shareholders on board," she said.
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