SCHLIEREN, SWITZERLAND — An investor group led by shareholders Cobas Seleccion, Cobas International and Veraison Sicav has requested that an extraordinary general meeting be called to strengthen Aryzta AG’s leadership with new members “with recognized experience in the bakery industry.” Among the proposed changes: the removal of Gary McGann as chairman and the installation of Urs Ernst Jordi as his replacement. Mr. Jordi is former head of Aryzta Europe and former chief executive officer of Hiestand Holding AG.
Aryzta said its board “will carefully consider the EGM request,” which also calls for the removal of Annette Flynn, Dan Flinter, Rolf Watter and Kevin Toland as members of the board, and the election of Armin Bieri and Heiner Kamps as members of the board and members of the compensation committee.
Mr. Bieri has many years of industry experience, including as CEO of Hiestand/Aryzta Switzerland and CEO of Aryzta Food Solutions Asia Pacific. Mr. Kamps founded and built up the bakery chain Kamps. He also was co-owner of the fast-food chain Nordsee as well as CEO and chairman of the Müller Dairy Group.
In the case of Mr. Toland, the shareholders said they would prefer to see him focus on his responsibilities as chief executive officer.
“Aryzta’s board has overseen significant and consistent value destruction for shareholders in recent years,” said the shareholder group, which holds 17.32% of the voting rights of Aryzta AG. “Four of the current 11 members of the board of directors have been in office since 2016 or longer and share responsibility for the problems that have remained unresolved for years (also after the capital increase of 2018).”
The announcement comes a week after the board of directors of Aryzta on May 13 announced it has engaged Rothschild & Co. to conduct a review of “all strategic and financial options available to the Group to maximize value for the benefit of all of the Group’s stakeholders.”
Aryzta said Rothschild was hired in April and that the review is expected to be completed by the end of July. On May 4 Aryzta said it had taken a number of cost-saving steps, including halting operations at eight baking plants in North America and Europe because of reduced demand. About a third of its workforce has been furloughed.
In the United States, Aryzta’s business includes La Brea Bakery, Otis Spunkmeyer and Oakrun Farm Bakery. Otis Spunkmeyer is heavily reliant on the foodservice sector. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Aryzta was struggling to grow its North American business. In the six months ended Jan. 31, the company’s North American revenue fell 1.9% with volume down 6%. The company’s EBITDA margins during the six months were 6.6%.