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London Stock Exchange group chairman to learn fate at shareholder meeting

PUBLISHED: 06:00 18 December 2017

The London Stock Exchange in the City of London   Photo: PA

The London Stock Exchange in the City of London Photo: PA

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London Stock Exchange Group chairman Donald Brydon is set to learn his fate on Tuesday when shareholders cast their votes over whether to oust him over the departure of former chief executive Xavier Rolet.

The group has been caught in a lengthy row with activist investor The Children’s Investment Fund (TCI), which claims that shareholders have lost faith in the chairman after he dismissed a “world class CEO without providing any good reasons”.

TCI, which owns more than 5% of the LSE, has since secured a shareholder vote to decide on Mr Brydon’s fate, scheduled for Tuesday, December 19.

But a string of major investors and shareholder groups have recently thrown their support behind the chairman, making it less likely that he will be forced to step down at the extraordinary meeting.

The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) has taken a position to support the chairman, as it believes that the LSE would not benefit from his immediate departure just as the CEO succession process gets under way.

QIA, which owns more than 10% of LSE, is the second largest stakeholder behind BlackRock, which also reportedly plans to vote against Mr Brydon’s dismissal.

Similar concerns were raised by Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) last week, which recommended that investors oppose the motion.

“Support for the removal of the chairman would equate to a strong judgment call against the board,” ISS said, adding that a simultaneous search for a chairman and CEO “would be far from ideal”.

“Keeping Donald Brydon as chairman for a limited time would provide stability and continuity and he has substantial experience hiring CEOs,” the shareholder advisory group said.

The LSE has confirmed that Mr Brydon will not stand for re-election in 2019, but this stops short of meeting the TCI’s demands for his immediate removal.

At the start of its campaign, TCI had also been calling for the LSE to retain Mr Rolet in his position as CEO until at least 2021, but those hopes were scuppered after the chief stepped down prematurely at the end of November.

It came just days after the raging controversy drew comments from the Bank of England, with Governor Mark Carney saying he was “mystified” by the tussle.

Upon his departure, Mr Rolet hit out at the “unwelcome publicity” which he stressed had “not been helpful to the company”.

The former CEO is now on gardening leave for 12 months, during which time he will be paid his £800,000 a year salary in full with a host of potential bonuses - together worth up to £13 million.

Mr Rolet held the LSE’s top job for more than eight years, during which time the LSE has seen its stock market value soar from £800 million to nearly £14 billion amid a string of acquisitions.

However, his tenure was marred by a failed £21 billion merger with German rival Deutsche Borse after it was blocked by the European Commission in March - marking the third attempt at a tie up between the two companies after setbacks in 2000 and 2005.

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