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Stobart's $300m Ryanair deal 'sends message to shareholders' amid 'distracting' spat

Stobart Group, the owner of Southend Airport, today sought to woo investors supporting a boardroom coup by signing a $300m (?225m) deal with Ryanair.
The Irish carrier will operate out of the Essex airport for the first time from the summer of 2019. Stobart said the five-year deal will create 750 new jobs in the area.
The Stobart board has come under fire from former chief executive Andrew Tinkler. In recent weeks he has demanded chairman Iain Ferguson steps down. Mr Ferguson’s position will be put to a shareholder vote at a meeting next month.
Separately, both sides have launched legal cases against one another. Stobart is suing Mr Tinkler for ?4m in taxes allegedly payable in relation to the purchase of what is now Stobart’s rail division. Mr Tinkler claims Stobart’s board has made defamatory remarks about him in regulatory statements.
Meanwhile, an anonymous letter has been sent to the board from more than 20 senior managers calling for Mr Ferguson to resign alleging a “bullying culture”.
Stobart's $300m Ryanair deal 'sends message to shareholders' amid 'distracting' spat

Stobart chief executive Warwick Brady (left) and Ryanair commercial chief David O'Brien
Major shareholders have been split by the battle. Mr Tinkler, who owns 7.7pc himself has been joined by acclaimed fund manager Neil Woodford. Mr Woodford’s former employer, Invesco Perpetual, has thrown its support behind Stobart’s current board, however.
Stobart chief executive Warwick Brady said the Ryanair tie-up was not just an attempt to impress dissenting shareholders like Mr Woodford.
“This is a message to all shareholders if you support independently managed boards that create the right framework for management to deliver value,” he said.
“Our job is to deliver day-to-day and that is what we are doing. Of course, the shareholder dispute is distracting. Obviously, destabilisation of the business is not good. What we need is stable management to deliver value.”
Stobart Group
With 55 new flights Stobart estimated Ryanair’s presence would lead to 1m additional passengers flowing through Southend Airport in the first year, rising to more than 5m in the first five years. Mr Brady said the partnership was a “win-win” for all parties, though admitted “Ryanair always want a good deal”.
“It’s a great example of how management is delivering value to all shareholders,” he said.
Stobart shares increased sharply on the announcement rising 11pc to 263p.
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