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FB Roundup: Mike Cannon-Brookes, Amancio Ortega, James Watt

By Glen Ferris

Climate activist billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes acquires shares in Australian power company
Tech tycoon and climate activist Mike Cannon-Brookes has bought an 11.28% stake in AGL Energy in an attempted block of a demerger, that would see Australia’s biggest power producer split into two companies.

The co-founder of Sydney-based software company Atlassian attacked the proposed plan as “Globally irresponsible” and “Flawed” in a letter to AGL's board, arguing the company should instead be investing in renewable energy.

The so-called ‘Accidental billionaire’ had previously attempted a total AGL buyout with Canadian investment group Brookfield Asset Management for $3.84 billion, with a view to expedite the closure of its coal plants and invest $14 billon in renewable energy alternatives.

That bid was rejected, but Cannon-Brookes continues to attempt to influence AGL shareholders with the purchase of his latest stake (bought for approximately $463 million through his family office Grok Ventures).

“We firmly believe the proposed demerger is a flawed plan that will fail to achieve these goals,” said Australia’s fourth-richest person with an estimated net worth of $18.5 billion. “As a result, we intend to vote every AGL share we control at the relevant time against the demerger and will actively encourage all AGL shareholders to do the same."

AGL is currently the single largest contributor to carbon emissions in Australia and the demerger will entrench a position that is inconsistent with the company's stated aim of limiting climate change.

“Larger shareholders that we had talked to and a whole lot of smaller shareholders, who are probably pretty aligned anyway have been super supportive. We fundamentally believe there can be a better future for AGL. A future that accelerates the transition to net zero,” Cannon-Brookes said.

AGL shareholders will vote on the proposed demerger, which needs 75% approval to pass, in June.

Amancio Ortega’s family office buys Glasgow office development for £215 million
Amancio Ortega, the Spanish billionaire founder of Inditex (the global fashion retailer which counts Zara, Pull&Bear, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, and others amongst its brands) has acquired a new Glasgow office development in an estimated £215 million deal.

Ortega’s family office Pontegadea confirmed the purchase of Scotland’s biggest new office building, 177 Bothwell Street. The deal marks the largest-ever Scottish office procurement and the UK’s third largest sale of an office property outside of London.

Ortega, who is the Spain’s richest man according to Forbes, founded Pontegadea in 2001 to diversify into real estate. He is said to be the biggest landlord on London’s Oxford Street, as well as the owner of Amazon and Facebook’s Seattle HQs. Pontegadea also bought Toronto’s Royal Bank Plaza for around $916.88 million in January of this year.

The 13-floor Bothwell Street property, which features a rooftop terrace and running track, is expected to serve as the Scottish headquarters for companies such as Virgin Money, BNP Paribas and AECOM among others.

BrewDog boss James Watt launches major staff incenctive scheme
James Watt, the co-founder and majority owner of the hugely successful Scottish-based multinational brewery and pub chain BrewDog, has announced plans to give away 20% of his personal equity stake to the firm’s employees.

In an announcement on his Twitter page, the chief executive officer claimed the not-yet-tradable shares would be worth £30,000 per year for the next four years and would be applicable to every salaried team member.

Watt, who has an estimated net worth of £262 million, has also revealed an incentive plan for his hourly-rate employees who will potentially receive half of the firm’s pub profits across its 100-plus worldwide bar and hotel chain. The resulting annual bonus is expected to be between £3,000 and £5,000 per employee, based on last year’s figures.

The scheme announcement follows an open letter in 2021 in which a group of 60 employees alleged the business was built upon a "Cult of personality" around its founders, James Watt and Martin Dickie, while Watt was personally accused of bullying and harassment.

Watt, who stringently refutes the claims, stresses the new employee reward scheme is not about mending relationships with staff.

“Everything we're doing today is about looking forward with a fantastic team,” said Watt of the scheme which will reduce his stake to 19.2%. “We want our team members to act as business owners and incentivise them as if they are business owners."

“Looking ahead, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a business and a brand that has a huge positive impact on the world. We firmly believe in our goal of becoming one of the world’s five most valuable beer brands over the next five years, all whilst flying the flag for sustainability and better business.

“We are determined to create a completely new type of business model. One where our team members are truly connected to the business, and where every single person in the team benefits from the growth and success that we collectively create.”

BrewDog was founded in Fraserburgh in Aberdeenshire, by Watt and his partner Martin Dickie. With a rapid expansion plan, the company opened a new brewery in nearby Ellon, before expanding further with breweries being launched in Ohio, Brisbane, and Berlin.

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