Renewable energy activist Mike Cannon-Brookes has succeeded in his campaign to shake up the board of energy giant AGL with shareholders voting at today’s annual general meeting to appoint four new directors to AGL’s board by recommendation van Grok, the family business of co-founder of Atlassian. enterprises.
Former Energy Security board chair Kerry Schott, former Tesla Energy director Mark Twidell, Swinburne University chancellor John Pollaers and CSR director Christine Holman all returned in a majority vote as independent directors, with Twidell the only one to receive board approval .
Shareholders also gave the company a first strike warning vote against the company’s remuneration report.
It is the latest win for Cannon-Brookes since its campaign to accelerate AGL’s shift to renewables began in February with an initial $5 billion takeover bid for Australia’s largest carbon emitter.
After two takeover offers were rejected, Cannon-Brookes spent $650 million to acquire an 11% stake in AGL through Grok Ventures, then began an ultimately successful campaign against AGL’s split plan.
AGL Chairman, Peter Botten, and CEO, Graeme Hunt, resigned as a result, along with a number of other directors, when the split was reversed.
Today’s board shake-up also casts a shadow over the continued tenure of new chair Patricia McKenzie, who also chairs NSW Ports and the Sydney Desalination Plant Group.
The company had opposed the nominations of Schott, Pollares and Holman because they lack the “additional experience and skills necessary to ensure the successful implementation of the board’s strategy”.
In response to today’s vote, McKenzie said, “The Board welcomes these new Directors to the Board and will work constructively with them in the best interests of shareholders.”
Brynn O’Brien, executive director of the Australasian Center for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR), said today’s vote has made history with shareholders sending a clear signal to Australian listed companies about how to manage climate risk.
“This is both a victory for shareholders and a damning indictment of those who have destroyed shareholder value for years by delaying the inevitable in the face of an escalating energy transition. It is vital that lessons are learned from AGL’s colossal waste of time and shareholder money,” he said
“The boards of other high-emitting companies should take note of today’s outcome: climate risk management is increasingly under pressure and those who remain grounded in the face of rapidly changing market dynamics, will be held accountable.”
O’Brien’s assessment of the new chairman was scathing, saying McKenzie, an AGL director for three years, “has taken the wrong turn” since her appointment.
“Patricia McKenzie should be held accountable for her poor judgment since taking on the role of chairman. From its adversarial relationship with AGL’s largest shareholder to its dismissive attitude to the skills and expertise of independent board candidates that shareholders have now outright endorsed,” he said.
“The first strike that AGL received on remuneration also shows that the chairman is misinterpreting the expectations of major shareholders.
The next immediate challenge facing AGL before it grapples with its energy transition is finding a new CEO to replace Hunt.