05/01/2015 - 15:55

IMF chair resigns as new MD starts

05/01/2015 - 15:55

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Rob Ferguson has resigned as chairman of litigation funder IMF Bentham after failing in a push for the company’s three executive directors, including founder Hugh McLernon, to retire from the board.

IMF chair resigns as new MD starts
New IMF managing director Andrew Saker.

Rob Ferguson has resigned as chairman of litigation funder IMF Bentham after failing in a push for the company’s three executive directors, including founder Hugh McLernon, to retire from the board.

Mr Ferguson’s immediate retirement coincided with the commencement today of new managing director Andrew Saker, whose appointment was announced in June.

Perth lawyer Michael Bowen – a partner at Hardy Bowen – has been appointed interim chairman pending the appointment of a permanent replacement.

IMF said Mr McLernon will remain as an employee of the company after his planned retirement as managing director, and “will likely offer himself for re-election as a director” at the next annual meeting.

John Walker, who was a co-founder of the company, has today given 12 months’ notice of his retirement as an executive director and of his resignation as an employee.

Clive Bowman, who has been an executive director since 2011, has retired from the board but will continue as chief executive (Australia and Asia).

Mr Ferguson’s retirement comes 10 years after he joined IMF, which has become a market leader in the field of litigation funding.

During most of this time, IMF had at least two executive directors, and for a period between 2007 and 2009, Mr Ferguson served as executive chairman and chief executive.

In recent discussions, he was pushing for all executives, with the exception of the managing director, to be off the board, in line with current thinking on corporate governance best practice. 

“Mr Ferguson expedited his retirement in response to the board’s decision to support Mr McLernon’s continuing role as an executive director,” the company said in a statement.

“It was Mr Ferguson’s position that all three executive directors should be requested to retire from the board.”

Mr Saker, who was previously a partner at insolvency firm Ferrier Hodgson, told Business News the company’s directors supported a board renewal process but wanted more gradual change.

“There will be a gradual phase-out of the executive directors, not a cutting off at the knees,” he said.

Mr Saker said major shareholders and proxy advisers had signalled their desire for board renewal at the last AGM.

A nomination committee comprising Wendy McCarthy, Alden Halse, Mr Bowen and Mr Saker has been appointed to oversee the board renewal process.

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