Lee Enterprises held its annual shareholder’s meeting Thursday morning, reelecting three directors despite attempts by Alden Global Capital, a Wall Street hedge fund, to install its own directors through proxy votes in ongoing attempts to takeover the company.
Chairman Mary Junck, CEO Kevin Mowbray and Lead Independent Director Herbert Moloney were retained with more than 70% of the vote each, with more than 75% of shareholders casting votes.
Mowbray said the results are subject to official tabulation and certification by the Independent Inspector of Elections, which is expected to be completed in a few days.
“The results represent a resounding rejection of Alden Global Capital’s campaign against Lee,” the company said in a news release.
Prior to the meeting, Lee sent an email to shareholders urging them to vote only for the board’s proposed nominees and asking them to disregard any promotional materials sent to them by Alden. Citing pending litigation by Alden against Lee, the company said no proxies or votes in favor of Alden’s director nominees would be recognized or tabulated at the annual meeting.
The directors were ensured they would be reelected because Lee used a plurality standard in the elections. That meant that the directors only had to get one “yes” vote to get reelected — more than any other candidate could receive because the directors were running unopposed. Alden tried to force the directors to have to win a majority of the votes to keep their seats, but a judge rejected that suggestion.
Junck said after the meeting that no one from Alden was present at the annual meeting. Alden affiliates currently own about 6.3% of Lee stock.
“Our shareholders supported the candidates for reelection and importantly, the company is focused on driving our digital transformation strategy, delivering strong local journalism as well as providing value to all of our shareholders,” Junck said.
Mowbray said the company’s Three Pillar Digital Growth Strategy is succeeding, as evidenced by growth in digital-only subscribers.
“We’ve made really good progress; our digital-only subscriber growth has exceeded the industry exceptionally for the last 12 quarters, beating both Gannett and the New York Times,” Mowbray said. “Our digital agency revenue growth is also industry-leading and that revenue is up about 45% to the prior year. We are really excited about our future.
“There is a lot of upside in our stock and we’ve got a very detailed five-year strategic plan that we’re right in the middle of executing,” Mowbray said. “We’ve made good progress.”
The Associated Press contributed to this reporting.
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