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Investor activist Armoyan reveals his nominees for Sherritt board

George Armoyan, president and CEO of Clarke Inc. seen at his home in Toronto.

Louie Palu/The Globe and Mail

Investor activist George Armoyan has revealed his three director nominees for the board of nickel and cobalt mining company Sherritt International Corp., two of whom have experience in mining-related businesses.

Mr. Armoyan, chief executive officer of Halifax-based Clarke Inc., is fighting a proxy battle with the existing board and management of Sherritt, attempting to shake up the company which he says has shown poor financial results and worse investor returns.

Sherritt had criticized Mr. Armoyan for his lack of mining experience, but the slate of directors included in the dissident proxy circular sent to shareholders Wednesday has two with experience in the sector.

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As well as Mr. Armoyan, the group includes David Wood, chief financial of the Municipal Group of Companies, a construction and mining infrastructure contractor, and Ashwath Mehra, chief executive of Astor Group, a resource advisory and investment business. Mr. Mehra is also the former chief executive of MRI Trading AG, a metal trading business, and was a senior partner for the nickel and cobalt businesses at Glencore International AG.

"Sherritt is led by a board and management with no vested interest in generating returns for shareholders," Mr. Armoyan said in a statement Wednesday. "The only way to create meaningful value at Sherritt is to bring true representatives of the shareholders onto the board who can take action for all shareholders."

Mr. Armoyan, a long-time activist investor, made his move on Sherritt in December, complaining that the board and management owned less than 1 per cent of the shares of the company. Clarke had bought up 5 per cent of the stock.

As well as proposing the new directors, Mr. Armoyan has submitted four shareholder proposals that he said would help align shareholder and director interests. They included a requirement for unanimous director agreement for major acquisitions, a "say-on-pay" vote for shareholders, more shareholder input on executive compensation, and an end to "special perquisites" for directors that he said have made the company "a private club, apparently run for the benefit of the board of directors."

Sherritt continues to reject Mr. Armoyan's proposals. In a response to his circular, Sherritt chairman Hap Stephen said Mr. Armoyan "continues to fail to present any alternative to Sherritt's current strategic plan or any credible ideas to increase shareholder value."

The company's own nine nominees for the board are "highly qualified" and independent, he said, and "will act in the best interests of all shareholders, not just Mr. Armoyan."

He also insisted that Sherritt has "positive momentum on the basis of a disciplined plan to pay down debt, cut costs and focus on areas of core expertise."

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Mr. Stephen noted that Sherritt's stock price has risen in the past couple of weeks, after some enthusiastic analyst reports about the company's Ambatovy nickel project in Madagascar.

Sherritt also has operations in Cuba, and until recently, it was known as a major producer of thermal coal in Western Canada. It is in the process of selling the coal business for $946-million.

With files from The Canadian Press

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About the Author
Reporter, Report on Business

Richard Blackwell has reported on Canadian business for more than three decades. At the Financial Post and the Globe and Mail he has covered technology, transportation, investing, banking, securities and media, among many other subjects. Currently, his focus is on green technology and the economy. More

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