Business

Activist investor formally demands boardroom shake-up at News Letter owners Johnston Press

The News Letter owner Johnston Press's biggest shareholder Christen Ager-Hanssen has called for Alex Salmond to be appointed to the board

THE biggest shareholder in the News Letter and Scotsman owner Johnston Press has formally called for former Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond to be appointed to the board and for two directors to be ousted.

Christen Ager-Hanssen, whose Custos Group holds a 20 per cent stake in Johnston, has written to Johnston asking for a general meeting where shareholders will vote on the proposed removal of chairman Camilla Rhodes and non-executive director Michael Butterworth.

The Norwegian activist investor wants to replace them with former First Minister Mr Salmond and Steve Auckland, who previously ran regional newspaper group Local World, to spearhead a shake-up of Johnston.

In the meantime, Johnston should also not be allowed to appoint any new directors before the shareholder meeting, according to Custos.

Johnston Press - which also owns the i newspaper, the Yorkshire Post and around 200 local titles including the Morton Group of weekly titles which includes the Ulster Star, Mid-Ulster Mail and Ballymena Times - said it was "consulting with its advisers" and will update on the timing of the meeting.

It also asked investors to take "no action at this time".

But a source close to the firm said: "The company is in the midst of a complex and important refinancing and we have the momentum with the established team to ensure further progress with the strategic review and ensure a good outcome.

"Despite dozens of tweets and interviews, Custos has not yet produced a coherent strategy or plan, which would be good to see."

Johnston Press, which has struggled under a debt burden and plunging print advertising revenues across the industry, now has 21 days to send shareholders notice of a forthcoming meeting which must be held within 28 days.

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