Victoria director fast-tracks potential Hornby takeover


An entrepreneur whose family founded the Victoria carpet business in Worcestershire is at the centre of a battle to take control of model railway brand Hornby.

The toy manufacturer has bowed to pressure to hold a general meeting after receiving a formal request from a leading shareholder for the removal of current chairman Roger Canham.

The letter has come from Alexander Anton, who is supported by New Pistoia Income, the second biggest shareholder in the toy brand with a 20% holding.

The proposal requests Hornby shareholders to back Mr Anton to replace Mr Canham.

The situation echoes that which embroiled Victoria in 2012 when a consortium headed by Mr Anton wrestled control of the carpet business away from its previous management.

A statement by Mr Anton’s Legacy Portfolio business said that after five years under the control of Mr Canham, Hornby had lost a reported £31m.

Hornby said in a market update on Friday (April 7) that a plan to turn the business around was making solid progress.
However, Legacy Portfolio said Hornby shareholders had lost an enormous amount and it was time for a change.

“Mr Anton and New Pistoia believe that the current strategy is ineffective, will continue to destroy value and is not aligned with creating wealth for all shareholders,” said the statement.

“This strong conviction has come after considerable research into the company’s current situation and management practices. Furthermore, Mr Anton and New Pistoia believe that the control currently exerted over the company by the company’s largest shareholder, Phoenix Asset Management with 34% of total shares in the company, where Mr Canham is also chairman, is not in accordance with principles of good corporate governance and therefore is not in best interests of the wider shareholder base.”

The statement claims Mr Anton has a strong track record in addressing challenging corporate issues and forcing through positive change at underperforming businesses.

It said discussions with Phoenix and Hornby over the course of several months had proved fruitless and Mr Anton and New Pistoia had been left with no alternative but to request the general meeting.

Mr Anton said: “The last five years under Mr Canham have been disastrous for Hornby’s shareholders. I believe it is time for new leadership as, in my experience, positive change nearly always requires fresh perspective.

“I am confident that Hornby’s fortunes can be turned around and value can be created for shareholders if changes are made.

“Now is the time to act otherwise shareholders face further losses.”

Mr Anton is currently a non-executive director of Victoria, and was previously chairman of the business from 2007 to 2010.

The date of the general meeting will be announced in due course.

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