The chairman of Wagamama owner The Restaurant Group (TRG) has announced plans to resign after the company faced months of pressure from activist investors to overhaul its strategy and leadership.
Ken Hanna said he will not seek re-election at the company’s next annual meeting in 2024, citing “personal reasons” for the decision.
TRG, which also owns the Italian-American grocery chain Frankie & Benny’s, said it would begin a search for a new chairman.
Mr. Hanna will step down as soon as a successor is elected.
It has been a privilege to work at TRG and I will leave the company in a great state as the business is very successful, outperforming the market and making good progress on its strategic options
The decision comes even as the company reported improved financial performance earlier this week after turning profits and posting higher sales in the last half of the year.
It painted a more positive picture for the casual dining sector, which was hit by pressured consumers cutting back on spending.
But a number of investors, led by activist fund manager Oasis Management, have called for Mr Hanna’s removal, along with chief executive Andy Hornby and remuneration director Zoe Morgan.
At TRG’s annual general meeting in May, Oasis, which owns around 15% of the group, led a rebellion over its pay report for last year.
Almost 35% of investors voted against the director pay policy, which gave Mr Hornby a total pay package of £792,000 for 2022, and there were significant votes against the reappointment of bosses.
This came after the company reported a loss of £86.8 million for the year.
But on Wednesday TRG said it had returned to pre-tax profit of £2.3 million in the six months to early July and raised its profit forecast for the current financial year.
It was said that cost pressure had improved in the medium term.
Mr Hanna said: “It has been a privilege to work at TRG and I will leave the company in a great place, with the business performing really strongly, outperforming the market and making good progress on its strategic options.”
After the optimistic update, Mr. Hanna clearly decided that now was a good time to leave rather than get involved in a dispute with activist investors that could derail the company’s increasing momentum
Chief executive Andy Hornby said: “On behalf of the board I would like to thank Ken for his outstanding contribution to the company.
“He was an exceptional chairman and a highly valued colleague at a critically important time for TRG as we successfully recovered from the Covid pandemic and made good progress with our strategy.”
TRG shares rose more than 6% on Friday following the news.
Victoria Scholar, head of investment at Interactive Investor, said: “This week Restaurant Group said it expects higher annual profits after reporting a rise in first-half profits.
“After the optimistic update, Mr. Hanna clearly decided that now is a good time to quit rather than get involved in a dispute with activist investors that could harm the company’s increasing momentum.”
https://www.standard.co.uk/business/business-news/chairman-of-wagamama-owner-to-step-down-after-months-of-activist-pressure-b1105779.html Chairman of Wagamama owner resigns after months of pressure from activists