Shoprite Holdings’ independent director resigns after company’s founder gets re-elected

SOUTH AFRICA – Shoprite Holdings Ltd.’s lead independent director, Shirley Zinn, resigned abruptly making Africa’s biggest supermarket chain now down to five non-executive directors.

This comes two days after Christo Wiese’s almost 30-year stint as chairman was extended despite majority of investors voting against his reappointment to the board.

The company gave no reasons for Zinn’s departure, but according to Wiese, she left citing personal reasons after agreeing on an orderly path forward which includes adding additional board members and a plan for a new chairman.

Zinn joined Shoprite’s board just over 14 months ago and also sat on the grocer’s remuneration and ethics committees.

Iaan van Heerden, who last month joined Wiese’s family office together with a former investment banking colleague, has been nominated for a board seat.

This, along with other nominations made, will go through all relevant committees.

The Shoprite board met on Monday to map out a way forward following the vote at its annual general meeting, where holders of more than 61% of the shares opposed Wiese’s re-election.

The former billionaire only secured another term thanks to his own superior voting rights.

Wiese, 78, has held extra voting shares for more than 40 years, part of a type of founder’s benefit. It was this stock that ensured he was re-elected.

As reported by IoL, Shoprite attempted to curb Wiese’s voting power earlier this year with the chairman’s support, but was forced to scrap the plan after investors objected to the likely 3.3 billion-rand (US$222 million) cost of compensation.

The rebellion against Wiese came after Shoprite reported an improvement in South Africa sales, while struggling in markets elsewhere on the continent.

The grocer has started a review of supermarket operations outside its home country and said it would consider exiting certain countries if that would help reverse regional declines.

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