John­ston Press in­vestor seeks meet­ing to oust chair­man

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Rhi­an­non Bury and Christo­pher Wil­liams

THE sec­ond largest in­vestor in John­ston Press, which owns the i and The Scots­man news­pa­pers, is plan­ning to de­mand a share­holder meet­ing in a bid to oust its chair­man.

Chris­ten Ager-Hanssen, a Nor­we­gian busi­ness­man whose in­vest­ment firm Cus­tos has a 12.6pc stake in the me­dia group, is to write to John­ston Press’s board later this week to re­quest an ex­tra­or­di­nary gen­eral meet­ing.

He is ex­pected to seek the re­moval of Camilla Rhodes, the com­pany’s in­terim chair­man, and to try and in­stall him­self in her place, as well as de­mand­ing other changes to the board’s make-up.

Mr Ager-Hanssen is thought to have ap­proached Crys­tal Am­ber, the com­pany’s largest in­vestor, for sup­port for his plan, although it was un­clear whether this had been suc­cess­ful.

Mr Ager-Hanssen has been build­ing up a stake in the debt-laden pub­lisher, and said in Au­gust that he planned to re­fi­nance the £220m bond debt cast­ing a shadow over the fu­ture of the 250-year-old com­pany, which also owns scores of lo­cal news­pa­pers.

Ear­lier this week, John­ston Press said it was ap­proach­ing its big­gest bond­hold­ers to form a com­mit­tee with which to ne­go­ti­ate ahead of the ma­tu­rity of the bonds which are due to be re­paid in 2019.

A de­cline in ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enues across print me­dia has hit the busi­ness hard, and it cur­rently has a stock mar­ket val­u­a­tion of just £15.35m.

Mr Ager-Hanssen is thought to be build­ing his hold­ing up to the 29.9pc thresh­old needed to make a takeover bid for the com­pany. Last month, he was linked with a takeover of the UK freesheet Metro. His com­pany Cus­tos also owns Swedish news­pa­per Metro, which he bought ear­lier this year, but which is un­re­lated to the Bri­tish news­pa­per of the same name.

John­ston Press de­clined to com­ment on Mr Ager-Hanssen’s de­mands.

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