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Power play: Hippie billionaire wins control of AGL Energy board

Billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes has won approval from shareholders to install four new directors on AGL Energy’s board, settling his long-running tussle to influence the company’s future direction.

Nov 15, 2022, updated Nov 15, 2022
Co-founder of Atlassian Mike Cannon-Brookes has spent decades becoming an overnight success. (AAP image).

Co-founder of Atlassian Mike Cannon-Brookes has spent decades becoming an overnight success. (AAP image).

AGL chairwoman Patricia McKenzie told shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting on Tuesday that former Tesla Energy director Mark Twidell, former Energy Security Board chairwoman Kerry Schott, Metcash director Christine Holman and Professor John Pollaers would be joining as new members of the board, based on the proxies lodged ahead of the meeting.

“The board welcomes these new directors to the board and will work constructively with them in the best interests of shareholders,” she said.

Cannon-Brookes’ private company, Grok Ventures, which is the largest shareholder in Australia’s biggest power producer, had nominated the four candidates as part of a broader effort to accelerate the 180-year-old company’s transition to renewables.

While Twidell had been endorsed by AGL, the company had rejected the other three, citing a lack of relevant experience and skills. However, all of the Grok nominees were supported by other large shareholders, as well as proxy advisers.

The new directors will be focused on finding a new full-time chief executive to lead the company. It currently has a short list of global candidates and expects to announce a permanent CEO in the coming months, McKenzie told shareholders.

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She also flagged that AGL is set to receive a “first strike” against executive pay because of some large shareholders voting against it.

“This is a disappointing result given that all major proxy advisors recommended that shareholders vote in favour of the report and no material concerns were identified,” McKenzie said, adding that the company would review its remuneration structure during FY23.

A so-called first strike happens when a company’s remuneration report receives a “no” vote of 25 per cent or more from shareholders at its annual general meeting.

It assumes significance because a second strike at next year’s meeting would spark a vote to change the board.

By 1140am (AEDT), AGL shares were up 0.3 per cent to $7.72 in a weak Australian market.

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