Financier Nat Rothschild has told Bumi’s senior independent director Sir Julian Horn-Smith he must take action over the alleged financial misdemeanours at the coal miner or consider quitting the board.
Mr Rothschild, who created Bumi (Other OTC: VLLRF - news) in June 2010 via an ill-fated $3bn (£1.9bn) deal with Indonesia’s Bakrie family, emailed Sir Julian last week, claiming he had failed to grasp “the gravity of the situation” facing the London-listed group.
Raising key issues relating to the investigation by law firm Macfarlanes into alleged “financial and other irregularities” at Bumi’s Indonesian operations, Mr Rothschild said: “You will appreciate these issues demand much more than the placatory response that I have received from you so far, and I would sadly ask you to consider your own suitability to continue in the role of senior independent director.”
Mr Rothschild, who has 15pc of Bumi’s votes, is so annoyed at the board’s progress in cleaning up the group that he is believed to be considering calling an extraordinary meeting in an attempt to oust some or all of the directors.
Mr Rothschild, who would not comment on his next move in the fractious Bumi saga, has already seen the board dismiss his alternative to the Bakries’ restructuring proposal for the group.
Bumi has lost 73pc of its value since its £10-a-share float, with the falling coal price exacerbated by the Macfarlanes investigation.
The law firm’s inquiry includes examining more than $500m of so-called “development assets” at Bumi Resources the Bakrie-controlled business in which Bumi has a 29pc stake and the disappearance of $75m that Berau invested in something known as the Chateau Asean Fund 1.
In his email, Mr Rothschild asked “what steps have been taken to secure/recover those funds” and questioned whether the independent non-executives were “satisfied” that Mr Tan had used his position as chairman to “address the issues”.
Asked for comment, former Vodafone (LSE: VOD.L - news) deputy chief executive Mr Horn-Smith said: “We absolutely must focus on doing the right thing for shareholders. That is completing this investigation in a professional manner and not in a capricious manner that compromises our ability to extract value for shareholders.
“What the board is not doing is delaying the investigation or sweeping things under the carpet.”