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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Grey power in action

My late father-in-law was a small shareholder in various companies, blue chip and otherwise. In retirement one of his regular diversions was to come up to town for their various AGMs. He's gone but the breed lives on, as I saw yesterday when I went to the EMAP General Meeting at which the vote was taken whether or not to sell the magazines and the radio.
Of course the decision had already been made by fund managers in the City wielding millions of votes, but I was pleased to see that this army of white-haired warriors still have one weapon at their waist in these contexts and that's the power to cause the directors on the platform to shift slightly in their seats as they field their questions from the floor.
A man stood up and extolled the virtues of one of the company's railway magazines, musing aloud whether this title and its estimable editor would continue to flourish under the new dispensation. A retired executive wondered how many of the company's employees were working themselves out of a job. An elderly lady whose husband had sold his exhibitions company to EMAP many years earlier and was presumably paid partially in shares asked how she was going to deal with the tax implications of the dividend. Should she sell the shares now?
The chairman blushed and said he wasn't empowered to give financial advice. No doubt, like most of the people on that side of the table, he can afford to pay somebody to sort out any tax issues pursuant to the deal.