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Poland row heats up as Stock Spirits urges shareholders to vote against Western Gate's recommendations

Published:  19 April, 2016

Stock Spirits is recommending that its shareholders vote against Western Gate Private Investment Ltd's recommendations, in an increasingly heated row over loss of market share in Poland.

The drinks distributor has been in a dispute with Western Gate - its largest shareholder - since Portuguese businessman Luis Amaral requested the removal of CEO Chris Heath earlier this month.

Heath stepped down yesterday.

The latest twist in the on-going saga emerged this morning when Stock Spirits released a statement.

The board is encouraging its shareholders to dismiss the circular released by Western Gate, which called for Heath's retirement and for two of two non-executive directors to take over.

The circular will be discussed at an upcoming meeting.

The board is urging shareholders to dismiss the recommendations on the grounds that there is a conflict of interest between Stock Spirits and Amaral, who is also the CEO and largest shareholder in Eurocash - the vodka-makers' largest customer.

Stock Spirits' chairman, David Maloney, said: "The board feels strongly that Mr Amaral's links with Eurocash mean that he is not seeking changes that would be in the best interest of all shareholders. As we announced yesterday, Chris Heath has taken early retirement, with Mirek Stachowicz taking on the role of interim CEO. This renders the resolution calling for the Chris's removal redundant.

"We firmly believe that the board, as currently constituted, has the right experience to take the company forward until we find a permanent replacement as CEO and would not benefit from the addition of two non-executive directors hand-picked by Mr Amaral."

Earlier today, Amaral hit back at the comments.

He said: "Stock Spirits' statement today reflects their tendency to blame other people for the trouble they find themselves in. They need to spend less time sitting remotely from their business making accusations, and more time turning around their core Polish business to deliver shareholder value for all.

"For example, they say that I have an 'overriding' conflict arising from my position at Eurocash, but chose to ignore perhaps that Stock makes up just 3% of Eurocash revenues and a negligible contribution to profit.

He added: "I can only conclude that the reason why they are rejecting the proposed NED [non-executive director] candidates is because they didn't come up with the names themselves, which seems a pretty weak excuse given how their business has been underperforming."