Bruce Mathieson Snr has put his support behind former Woolworths CFO, Bill Wavish, to be elected as Independent Non-Executive Director on the Endeavour Group (EG) Board.

EG is electing two new Independent Non-Executive Directors at its Annual General Meeting on 31 October, and has already recommended the appointment of Bruce Mathieson Jr and Rod van Onselen to the positions.

Speaking about the decision to back Wavish, Mathieson said: “I don’t think anyone in this country would stand by the performance of this group under the leadership of Peter Hearl and Steve Donohue. It has been an absolute disaster and their decisions have been disgraceful.

“What Endeavour owns is beyond belief, 350 pubs, big outlets, no other business has assets like it and yet it does not perform. All the pub owners I speak to are firing like you can’t believe and yet nothing for shareholders of their owners.”

In its most recent financial result for FY2023, Endeavour reported growth in all the key areas as group sales increased by 2.5 per cent on the previous year to $11.9bn. There was also growth in group earnings, up 10.7 per cent to $1.02bn and group net profit after tax increased by 6.9 per cent to $529m.

Wavish said he intends to put his case directly to shareholders to urgently reverse the over $5bn reduction in shareholder value since August last year.

Wavish said: “During my tenure at Woolworths, I had the great privilege of overseeing the formation of BWS, the expansion of Dan Murphy’s and the acquisition of ALH and many prominent hotels that are still a core part of Endeavour’s portfolio. I was also a core part of the senior leadership team that implemented a comprehensive cost reduction program, Project Refresh, that delivered $5.3bn in savings by 2006.

“It is with this deep knowledge, and the support of other shareholders, that I am committed to securing a board seat and working collaboratively on a much-needed turnaround.”

In its Notice of Annual General Meeting, Endeavour has outlined reasons it does not endorse Wavish to be appointed to the Board.

The Notice states: “Mr Wavish’s nomination was received on the closing date for receipt of director nominations for election at the Meeting. Endeavour has initiated the regulatory approval process required for Mr Wavish to meet the eligibility criteria in Article 10.6(b) of the Constitution. As at the date of this Notice of Meeting, the necessary regulatory approvals have not been received. If the necessary regulatory approvals are not received by the commencement of the AGM, Mr Wavish will not be eligible for election at the Meeting and the resolution will be withdrawn and not put to a shareholder vote.

“In addition to the regulatory eligibility criteria noted above, it is in the best interests of shareholders and consistent with good governance practices that all prospective non-executive director candidates undergo Endeavour’s director selection, appointment and election process (which is set out on page 13 of Endeavour’s 2023 Corporate Governance Statement). As at the date of completing this Notice of Meeting, there has not been sufficient time since receiving Mr Wavish’s nomination on 28 August 2023 for the Board to complete the customary processes it undertakes in selecting and appointing directors, including the associated probity assessments, in relation to Mr Wavish.

“Mr Wavish was invited to participate in the formal director search process underway and to be considered with other prospective candidates. At the time, he declined to participate in this process. The offer remains open to Mr Wavish to join the process.

“Having regard to the timing of Mr Wavish’s nomination, the outstanding probity assessments, pending necessary regulatory approvals and ongoing formal director search process, the Board is not in a position to determine whether it is in the best interests of Endeavour for Mr Wavish to be elected as a director of Endeavour at the Meeting and therefore recommends that shareholders vote against the resolution.”

Wavish said: “The Endeavour Group Board needs to evolve to include a broader range of expertise and capabilities to reset the company’s strategic direction and importantly, revitalise its core brands. This Board must take a leadership position and not be captured by insiders who may be resistant to change.

“After two consecutive years of underperformance, calling for more time is no longer acceptable. As a starting point, an urgent and fulsome review of capex is required to ensure the company is delivering a return on investment for shareholders.

“While I am very optimistic about the future of Endeavour urgent action must be taken to address a period of material mismanagement and gross underperformance,” he said.

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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