Australian Billionaire And Climate Activist Wins Board Fight At AGL Energy

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All four of the directors proposed by AGL Energy’s (OTC: AGLXY) top shareholder, tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, were approved by the company’s shareholders on Tuesday, despite objections from the board.

More than 25% of shareholders rejected the executive pay plan in a surprise outcome, final votes showed. The entire board could face re-election under Australian corporate rules if that is left again next year.

Climate activist Cannon-Brookes, who has an 11% stake in AGL, forced the company to abandon its plans for a demerger and instead focus on closing its coal-fired power plants sooner and investing up to A$20 billion in renewable energy by 2036.

Looking to boost his influence, Cannon-Brookes’ investment vehicle, Grok Ventures, proposed four candidates for AGL’s board: ex-Tesla executive Mark Twidell, former Energy Security Board chair Kerry Schott, John Pollaers and Christine Holman.

Despite only endorsing Twidell, all four proposals were approved by AGL’s shareholders, according to Chair Patricia McKenzie, who cited proxy votes at the group’s annual meeting.

“A great day in the future of Australia’s decarbonisation,” Cannon-Brookes thanked his four board nominees on Twitter, saying they were helping to guide AGL and shareholders.

McKenzie, the chair of AGL, said that the board would work productively with the new directors.

The board’s primary objective is to find a new CEO that will guide the company towards sustainable energy after Cannon-Brookes’ crusade to restructure the company caused former CEO Graeme Hunt to resign.

“This again demonstrates that the majority of AGL shareholders desire changes, new perspectives and improved execution to realise the company’s potential,” a Grok spokesperson told reporters in an emailed statement after the company’s annual meeting.

All four of Grok’s picks said in recorded comments at the annual meeting they were independent of the tech billionaire and would work to benefit all shareholders equally.

McKenzie won the majority of votes for her re-election to the board, but more than a quarter of shareholders voted against the company’s executive pay plan. She said most of the opposition came from two large investors.

“Given that all major proxy advisors recommended shareholders vote in favour of the report and no material concerns were identified, it is disappointing that this was not the result,” McKenzie stated at the yearly conference.

According to Australia’s corporate rules, if at least 25% of voting shareholders object to the pay plan for two consecutive years, they may vote to remove the company’s board.

AGL’s challenges continue to mount after Brookfield, its rejected Canadian suitor, announced last week that it is leading an $18 billion bid for Origin Energy– Australia’s number two power producer.

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