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LSE investors told by second advisory group to back chairman

Lucy Burton
A second influential advisory firm has come forward urging LSE shareholders not to support TCI - Reuters

A second influential advisory firm has come forward urging London Stock Exchange shareholders not to back an investor's bid to push the chairman out. 

Glass Lewis has told its clients that The Children's Investment Fund (TCI), run by hedge fund billionaire Sir Christopher Hohn, had "failed to present a sufficiently compelling case" to remove chairman Donald Brydon. 

The recommendation comes as a fresh blow to Sir Christopher, who is seeking shareholder support at a crunch investor meeting which will decide Mr Brydon's fate on December 19. 

Yesterday Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) recommended that clients vote against Mr Brydon's removal and Glass Lewis has reinforced that message with its own clients. 

Sir Christopher, whose hedge fund owns 5pc of the exchange, embarked on a highly-public campaign to oust Mr Brydon last month after growing convinced that chief executive Xavier Rolet was forced to resign.

The bitter bust-up escalated to such an extent that Mr Rolet left last week, a year earlier than planned

Xavier Rolet insisted last week that he would not return to the job 'under any circumstances' Credit: Teri Pengilley

Glass Lewis said forcing him to exit before his contract ends in 2019 would impair the hunt for another chief executive, which is currently a key priority for the exchange.  

"We see no reason to believe that the board failed to properly oversee the company during the CEO transition process," Glass Lewis told clients. "The board appears to have exercised reasonable judgment in pursuing an orderly CEO succession plan." 

LSE directors have already branded Sir Christopher's campaign to keep Mr Rolet in the role and remove Mr Brydon as "damaging" to the exchange, urging the activist investor to backdown. While Sir Christopher pulled a vote to retain Mr Rolet, who resigned in October, he has insisted on Mr Brydon's removal. 

However, to succeed in his fight to oust the chairman, he will need more than half of the investors who vote on December 19 to back his exit.   

Separately, accounts filed on Thursday show that TCI Fund Management paid out $364m in dividends to two directors – Sir Christopher and compliance chief Angus Milne – in the year to February. 

Although the split is not broken down it is understood almost all of the money went to Sir Christopher, one source told Bloomberg, translating to a salary for the billionaire of almost $1m a day. The directors did not receive a dividend the year before.  

Pre-tax profits during the period more than doubled to $273.3m, meanwhile – going in the opposite direction to profits in TCI's advisory business which halved during the year. TCI Fund Holdings, the group's holding company, also saw its pre-tax profits soar although it paid out $54.4m to key management staff versus $231.5m a year earlier. 

A spokesman for TCI declined to comment.