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Lew renews Myer attack at Premier AGM

Solomon Lew has launched another broadside at Myer during his chairman’s address at Premier Investment’s AGM, saying he will use all options at his disposal to eject the board and provide the struggling department chain with the circuit-breaker it needs.

The billionaire investor, who is Myer’s largest shareholder with a 10.77 per cent stake, has consistently called for investors to rise up against a board that has overseen plunging sales and a falling share price.

“I see the removal of the current Myer board as the crucial circuit-breaker the company needs,” Lew told shareholders at Premier’s AGM.

“No-one can have any confidence in the current Myer board, which has handed the keys to the company over to the banks after running it into the ground.”

Premier, together with other Myer shareholders, last year delivered a first strike on remuneration, meaning a repeat at Myer’s annual general meeting on Friday would trigger an automatic board spill.

Lew said told Premier shareholders on Thursday he had hoped the Myer board “would have seen the writing on the wall” after a full-year loss of $486 million and resigned in favour of a new independent board.

“We have long been calling for the Myer board to be replaced with a new independent board with the requisite skills to actually deliver for shareholders – the most important skill being retail experience,” Lew said.

“We continue to use all of the options at our disposal to ensure the protection of our investment and have been urging our fellow long-suffering Myer shareholders to take action.”

Lew said he had held positive discussions with Myer chief executive John King in recent weeks and believed he was not to blame for the department chain’s woes.

“John King and his team may be decent jockeys, but the problem is with the trainer: the failed Myer Board,” Lew said.

“That is why I am announcing today that Premier is voting in favour of John King’s options being granted to him during tomorrow’s AGM.

“It is consistent with our approach that the Board is the issue, not the CEO.”

Myer has labelled Lew’s campaign against it “grossly misleading and inflammatory” and suggested he is trying to gain control of the company without paying the premium a takeover offer would require.

In September, Premier Investments said its full-year profit had slumped more than 20 per cent to $83.64 million, after it declared $30 million impairments on its casual wear group, including Just Jeans, Dotti, and Jay Jays.

Regardless, the company easily avoided a first strike against its own remuneration report.

Lew on Thursday said Premier would close three unprofitable stores on South Yarra’s Chapel Street due to landlords’ “unrealistic expectations and inability to understand the changing market structure”.

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