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Funerals firm Dignity starts search for new board roles following coup

Funeral director Dignity has confirmed plans to start the hunt for three new non-executive directors, including a new chairman, following a boardroom coup by activist investors.

The move comes less than a week after investment fund Phoenix won a vote to oust the chairman and install its own representative.

As a result of the move, its previous board representative, James Wilson, stepped down as a non-executive director on Monday with immediate effect.

Interim executive chairman Gary Channon, who represents Phoenix’s interests and took over from Clive Whiley last week, said: “James has made a significant contribution during his time on the board, including the introduction of the promising trials in the funeral division, and I’d like to thank him for his tireless and unpaid efforts.

“He will continue his strategy work.

“As Phoenix has always stated, it does not seek to control the board of Dignity and we have now engaged external advisers to help recruit experienced candidates which will result in a board with a majority of independent directors.”

The latest step comes after three other non-executive directors quit the board last week.

They were Gillian Kent and Paul Humphreys, who quit with immediate effect, and Dean Moore, who will see out his three-month notice period in his current role as finance chief.

The three had voiced their opposition to Phoenix’s plans and said their positions were now seriously compromised.

Phoenix built up a 29.9% stake in Dignity and forced through a vote against chairman Mr Whiley.

About 55% of votes cast by shareholders backed a motion to remove him.

Mr Channon, who was nominated by Phoenix to join the board, 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.