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Stobart chair Ferguson may steer Marshall Motors

By Mark Kleinman, City editor
The boardroom veteran who narrowly survived a vote to oust him as chairman of Stobart Group, the industrial conglomerate, is in the driving seat to take the same role at Marshall Motor Holdings, one of the UK's biggest car dealers.
Sky News has learnt that Iain Ferguson is one of two final candidates to succeed Peter Johnson as chairman of Marshall, which is listed on London's junior AIM market.
His candidacy for the role is intriguing given the prominence of a continuing conflict at Stobart between Andrew Tinkler, its former chief executive, and the existing board.At last month's Stobart annual meeting, Mr Ferguson was re-elected with 51.2% of the vote, but said within days that he would retire from the board before next year's AGM.The result of the vote has been questioned by Mr Tinkler and his supporters, who include the leading fund manager Neil Woodford, amid their now-postponed support for Philip Day, the retail tycoon, to replace Mr Ferguson.An alternative candidate - the Co-op Group chairman Allan Leighton - was proposed by M&G Investments, another Stobart shareholder, as a potential compromise, but he has since withdrawn his name from the running.Mr Ferguson is a serial figure on public company boards, having run Tate & Lyle as its chief executive between 2003 and 2009.
A 26-year veteran of Unilever, the consumer goods group, he has since taken directorships at companies such as Balfour Beatty, the construction and engineering company, Gregg's, the bakery chain and Berendsen, the support services group which was bought by a French suitor last year.It was unclear on Wednesday whether Mr Ferguson was likely to get the nod over his rival candidate for the Marshall chairmanship, with a decision expected in the coming weeks.Marshall is the UK's seventh-largest motor dealer group, operating 101 franchised dealerships under brands including BMW, Ford, Honda, Land Rover, Maserati and Vauxhall.The company, which is due to report its interim results next week, said in July that its performance in the first five months of its financial year had been in line with the UK's new car retail market, which saw a 5.7% decline in new vehicle registrations.
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The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has repeatedly warned that Brexit-related uncertainty is having a profound effect on consumer confidence.A spokesman for Marshall, which has a market value of about €120m, declined to comment on the search for Mr Johnson's successor.
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