South Africa’s largest retailer, Shoprite announced that its chairperson, Christo Wiese will retire at next year’s AGM.
This move follows concerted shareholder pressure on Wiese to stand down as chairperson, a position he has held since 1991, at the latest AGM on November 4.
At that meeting Wiese used his shares, which have extra voting rights, to continue his stint as chairperson, despite shareholders who held more than 61% of the shares opposing his reappointment.
Shareholders called for a chairperson who is completely independent. Wiese’s shareholding is a source of contention as it means he has the power to push through changes that personally suit him, even if not necessarily in the best interest of the other shareholders.
Shoprite tried to sort out this issue by offering to buy Wiese’s holding for R3.3 billion, but shareholders bulked at the fee.
Wiese’s reappointment as chairperson was followed by the sudden resignation of Shirley Zinn, Shoprite’s lead independent director.
Zinn was only appointed to the board in August 2018 and had been the lead independent director for six months.
Aside from the announcement that Wiese will retire next year, Shoprite also said Dr Anna Mokgokong will take over as lead independent director.
Shoprite says it’s now looking to “commence a formal process to recompose the board, identifying and supplementing the existing board with additional expertise and skills”.
“As was noted at the group’s recent AGM, succession planning is a key priority for the board.”
The retailer went on to say that the move to sort out its succession plan was not only supported by Wiese but also backed the notion that this person should be an independent director.
“The board is of the view that, in line with good corporate governance, the next group chairperson should be independent, a view supported by Dr Wiese. As such the process to find a suitable independent successor has commenced.”