Christo Wiese hugely unpopular among Shoprite shareholders

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A clear majority of shareholders in Shoprite [JSE: SHP] voted against chairperson Christo Wiese's re-appointment as director of the company.

On Monday at the company's annual general meeting, shareholders holding more than 61% of ordinary Shoprite shares voted against him.

But Wiese retained his seat on the board thanks to his holding of shares that have special voting rights.

Wiese controls 42% of the voting rights in the Shoprite group - with almost a third of that coming from his shares with special voting rights. Excluding his total shareholding, in effect only 28% of other shareholders supported his re-appointment as director.

Wiese told Netwerk24 that he doesn't believe that the vote results demonstrated distrust in him.

Instead, it was part of a growing trend among institutional shareholders who increasingly demand independent chairpersons, he believes.

Wiese said he understood the reasons for the trend, and doesn't have a problem with it.

Asked whether investors may not have as much confidence in him following the Steinhoff crisis, Wiese said it's their confidence in the Shoprite management team that counts, as well as how he collaborates with that team.

Wiese was a close associate of disgraced former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste. Wiese lost more than R23bn after Steinhoff all but collapsed in 2017 amid extensive corporate fraud.

Wiese's future

While Wiese was re-appointed chairperson on Monday evening, there remain questions how long he will keep the job. He has been in the position for 27 years, and was last up for reelection in 2017. Wiese told the media on Monday that he will stay on as director if a new chair is appointed.

Prof Shirley Zinn, the lead independent director of Shoprite, said at the AGM that a succession plan was in place and that the board will discuss it in coming months. 

Shane Watkins, investment head of All Weather Capital, said minority shareholders sent a strong message to Wiese. If Wiese didn't have special shares, he would have been out.

Watkins believes the AGM vote was a key moment for Shoprite - investors are demanding a different approach to the corporate management of Shoprite.

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