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Big setback for Rothschild in battle for Bumi

Financier Nat Rothschild has failed in his bid to replace the board of Bumi, the ill-fated FTSE 250 coalminer he co-founded in 2010 with Indonesia’s Bakrie family.

Financier Nat Rothschild has failed in his bid to replace the board of Bumi, the ill-fated FTSE 250 coalminer he co-founded in 2010 with Indonesia’s Bakrie family.

On 21 February Rothschild attended Bumi’s extraordinary general meeting in London, arriving with his mother, Lady Serena Rothschild, and leaving with 19 out of 22 of his resolutions rejected by shareholders.

Possibly the most important resolution – Rothschild’s proposed appointment as executive director of the board – was rejected by 63% of investors.

The 41-year old, who has continuously claimed to be protecting the rights of minority independent shareholders, had sought to depose 12 out of 14 board members, including incumbent chief executive Nick von Schirnding.

However, Rothschild managed to oust only two board members – Jean-Marc Mizrahi, a director, and Nalinkant Rathod, an executive of the Bakrie family – with Schirnding also retaining his position with 61% of shareholders voting in his favour.

Rothschild’s only other success was in appointing Sir Richard Gozney to the board, a former British diplomat intended to stabilise the company’s relations with Indonesia.

Bumi, in a statement following the meeting, said that the board welcomed the “decision of shareholders to support the board on substantially all resolutions”.

It added the vote provided “an endorsement of the board’s strategy”.

The row between Rothschild and Bumi began in 2011, when the hedge-fund veteran called for the Indonesian Bakrie-controlled side of the operation to be investigated. In November 2011, a document was leaked exposing Rothschild’s request for a “radical clean-up” of corporate governance at Bumi’s subsidiary, the Jakarta-listed PT BumiResources.

The public furore has seen Bumi’s stock lose nearly two-thirds of its share value since listing and provoked vicious accusations from both sides of the dispute. In January the chair of Bumi’s audit committee accused Rothschild of exploiting the company for the payment of his private jet.

An amicable divorce is now being negotiated between Bumi and the Bakrie family. The family is in the process of divesting its 24% stake in the company.

In Bumi’s statement following the results of the meeting, the company announced that Samin Tan – the Bakries’ representative on the board – would step down when a new independent chairman was found. In the statement Bumi stressed that they sought a candidate “who has experience in, and is familiar to, the London market”. 

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