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Funeral firm Dignity’s chairman ejected in boardroom coup

Funeral (PA)
Funeral (PA)

The chairman of funeral provider Dignity has been ousted in a coup led by the company’s biggest shareholder.

Dignity said 55% of votes cast by shareholders backed a motion to remove Clive Whiley as a director.

Shareholders backed the argument for change at the top made by Phoenix Asset Management, which has built up a 29.9% stake in Dignity in recent years.

They also backed Gary Channon, who was nominated by Phoenix, to join the board. He gained 61% of the vote.

Only 88% of potential votes were cast at the meeting, meaning Phoenix convinced a little under 19% of Dignity’s share base to vote for the motion.

“Excluding the votes cast on the resolutions by Phoenix, the views expressed by other shareholders were substantially in support of the independent directors’ recommendation to vote against the resolutions,” Dignity said.

Mr Whiley will step down immediately, joined by independent directors Gillian Kent and Paul Humphreys, who believe their positions have become “seriously compromised” by the vote.

Interim executive finance director Dean Moore will also leave the company, but has offered to serve a three-month notice period. He became acting chairman on Mr Whiley’s departure, and said efforts had been made to find a solution to the situation.

“The independent directors have held substantive discussions with both Phoenix and Clive Whiley in order to try and find a mutually acceptable solution which would allow the company to benefit from the continued involvement of both Clive Whiley and Gary Channon,” Mr Moore said.

“A proposal was put to Phoenix whereby Clive Whiley would continue as chairman, but in a non-executive capacity, with Gary Channon being appointed as interim chief executive officer until a more permanent appointment can be made.

“In spite of the best efforts of the independent directors and the willingness of Clive Whiley to proceed in this manner, unfortunately it has not been possible to reach such a compromise.”

It will now fall to the remaining two board members and Mr Channon to decide on a chairman. He is favourite to take the role.

He said: “We thank our fellow shareholders for their support, we now have to show ourselves worthy of it and we will get straight to work on that today.”

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