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Shaftesbury boss Brian Bickell set to survive attempt to oust him

Joanna Bourke

Brian Bickell, the long-standing boss of Shaftesbury, on Friday cheered good trading at the West End property firm as he looked set to survive a rebel shareholder’s bid to oust him.

The 65-year-old faced a tense annual meeting today, 24 hours after Hong Kong billionaire Samuel Tak Lee, the largest shareholder in Shaftesbury, said he would oppose the remuneration and reappointment of Shaftesbury’s chairman, chief executive and finance chief.

Institutional shareholders were expected to vote to keep the Chinatown landlord’s current board.

That would make it highly unlikely for 26% owner Lee to get the 50% of votes needed to oust management.

Mike Fox, head of sustainable investments at Royal London Asset Management, a 1.5% shareholder, said his firm was voting to support management.

Although Lee has previously opposed votes that allow the board to carry out a share placing without consultation, this is the first time he has called for change of leadership.

Lee, who owns the sprawling neighbouring Langham Estate north of Oxford Street, claims his stake was diluted by a recent Shaftesbury share placing.

Bickell, who has led Shaftesbury since 2011, was bullish today and made no mention of Lee in a trading update for October to February 7.

The chief executive said there was robust footfall and trading over the festive period. He added: “In contrast to reports of subdued leisure spending nationally, our restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars were particularly busy throughout the festive period.”

With regards to Crossrail delays, Bickell said they are not impacting retailer demand for space on the Shaftesbury estate.

The firm should see busier shops and restaurants once the new Tottenham Court Road Crossrail station opens