Jonathan Milner Announces That He is Taking Steps to Call an Extraordinary General Meeting of Abcam Shareholders
Jonathan Milner Announces That He is Taking Steps to Call an Extraordinary General Meeting of Abcam Shareholders
Delivers Open Letter to Abcam shareholders
Follows sustained period of operational underperformance since the start of 2020 and a track record of value destruction under the current Board and leadership team
Critical for shareholders to have a platform to exert their right to restore focus for Abcam on governance, execution, and cost control to elevate it to the valuation it rightly deserves
CAMBRIDGE, England, 17 May 2023 – Jonathan Milner, the founder and one of the largest investors in Abcam plc (“Abcam” or the “Company”) (NYSE: ABCM) with ownership of 6.3% of the Company, announced today that he is taking steps to call an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Company’s shareholders.
His plan is to remedy a period of sustained operational underperformance and value destruction by the current Board and leadership team since he resigned from the Board in October 2020 by giving the Company more effective leadership at the Board level now. The broader purpose of the meeting is to provide a forum for shareholders to exercise their right to restore focus around governance, execution, and cost control to Abcam and elevate it to the valuation it rightly deserves.
Jonathan Milner intends to solicit shareholder support to replace the Chairman of the Board, Peter Allen, with himself as Executive Chairman.
Jonathan Milner said: “The Extraordinary General Meeting is an opportunity for shareholders to send a clear message to the Abcam Board that we are dissatisfied with the Company’s recent performance and that it needs to immediately enhance focus on governance, execution, and cost control.
“I am deeply invested in Abcam’s success and, when it became apparent that the Board had become so ineffective that it was impeding the Company’s ability to achieve its performance objectives, I first sought to reach a constructive solution directly with the Board to return as a non-executive Board member, which I was invited to do subject to restrictions that would impair my ability to hold the management team accountable and to serve effectively.
“It has now been proved that, under the current Chairman, the Board and leadership team are unable to restore the value of the Company and I now feel compelled to return to the Board as the Executive Chairman. If reappointed, I intend to return to Abcam full-time and urgently get back to work at the heart of the Company. Shareholders deserve an opportunity to have an industry expert who has deep knowledge of Abcam chairing the Board to restore the Company to its previous market leadership and create shareholder value in the short to medium term.”
In order to fully focus on Abcam, Jonathan Milner has relinquished all other Board member responsibilities with the exception of one private company.
Jonathan Milner has issued an open letter to Abcam shareholders today, the full text of which follows.
17 May 2023
Dear Fellow Abcam Shareholders:
As Founder and a major investor in Abcam plc (“Abcam” or “the Company”), I write to share with you that I am taking steps to call an Extraordinary General Meeting in order to give the Company’s shareholders an opportunity to restore performance and improve the share price by giving the Company more effective leadership at the Board level.
I founded Abcam in 1998 to become the world’s leading supplier of antibodies and led the Company onto the London Stock Exchange in 2005, which resulted in a 2,000% share price uplift and culminated in Abcam becoming one of the most successful public companies returning ca.20x to investors by the time I handed the CEO reins over to my successor, Alan Hirzel, previously the Chief Marketing Officer, in 2014. As Deputy Chairman, I guided Alan, and continued to build the Company through its further success to have a market capitalisation of ca.$5bn by 2019.
Since October 2020, which coincided with my stepping down, the Company has lost focus and significantly underperformed.
I have held a series of meetings with Board members where I offered to help reverse the Company’s loss of focus. During that process, I was offered a Board seat subject to restrictions that would impair my ability to hold management accountable and to serve effectively. Those restrictions would undoubtably render me a second-class Director and shareholder. More recently, I asked the Board to facilitate my calling of an Extraordinary General Meeting to permit the shareholders to act on my proposals for Board change, without success. Indeed, based upon my interaction with the Company and its advisors, I am concerned that the Board will try to impede or even block my calling of the meeting. I do not intend to be deterred by any such action they may take, and I am committed to seeing this through.
I believe that the value destruction and underperformance suffered by the Company is driven by a lack of a shareholder perspective on the Board, poor governance, including compensation program misalignment, a lack of focus on value creation, operational and strategic missteps, and a lack of cost management. In order, therefore, to turn around the Company’s underperformance I am seeking the position as Executive Chairman.
Specifically, this loss of focus falls under the three key areas of governance, execution, and costs. Addressing each of these in turn:
Poor governance, execution, and cost control has led to value destruction and a share price that is materially below where it should be. This is unacceptable and needs urgent attention. Abcam and all its stakeholders including shareholders, suppliers, employees, and customers deserve better.
My resources to allow the Board to resolve these problems are:
My expertise and shareholding uniquely make me the only person that can quickly reverse this situation, restore shareholder trust and value and make Abcam the ‘Amazon of Antibodies’ once again.
Summary and next steps:
The potential of Abcam to create value for shareholders remains enormous, however the Company has substantially underperformed in recent times.
The Board is unable to execute a successful strategy under the current Chairman. He has failed to support and challenge the current management team and Board culminating in shareholder value destruction and a loss of focus. He has disengaged with shareholders and their concerns remain unvoiced. He has created an echo-chamber between the Executives, himself, and the rest of the Board such that no criticisms are allowed. For the sake of all stakeholders, I urge shareholders to appoint me to the position of Executive Chairman and vote for the proposals outlined below. Here, I can support and constructively challenge the current management team and lead the Board appropriately.
The proposals will include:
As is customary and appropriate, we will also be taking necessary steps at the successful conclusion of this process to secure reimbursement for the expenses incurred in our effort to secure the Board representation required to enhance long-term performance at Abcam. To the extent that the Board engages in uncooperative behaviour or takes unnecessary or dilatory actions that artificially and recklessly increase these costs – including by requiring a wasteful and unnecessary conversion of ADRs into ordinary shares – it will further demonstrate its disregard for shareholders and allocation of company resources.
With the help of your vote, I believe that together we can restore Abcam to the valuation it deserves. Toward that end I ask that you please watch for further communications regarding the intended Extraordinary General Meeting.
SHAREHOLDERS DESERVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO HAVE A FULLY FOCUSED EXPERT WHO HAS DEEP KNOWLEDGE OF ABCAM CHAIRING THE BOARD IN ORDER TO TURN THE COMPANY AROUND TO CREATE SHAREHOLDER VALUE.
THE EXTRAORDINARY GENERAL MEETING IS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR SHAREHOLDERS TO SEND A CLEAR MESSAGE TO THE BOARD THAT THEY ARE DISSATISFIED WITH ITS CURRENT FOCUS, GOVERNANCE, EXECUTION AND COST CONTROL.
International PR advisers
THIS DOCUMENT HAS BEEN ISSUED BY DR. JONATHAN MILNER ("DR. MILNER").
THIS DOCUMENT IS FOR DISCUSSION AND INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. THE VIEWS EXPRESSED HEREIN REPRESENT THE OPINIONS OF DR. MILNER AS OF THE DATE HEREOF. DR. MILNER RESERVES THE RIGHT TO CHANGE ANY OF HIS OPINIONS EXPRESSED HEREIN AT ANY TIME AND FOR ANY REASON AND EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMS ANY OBLIGATION TO CORRECT, UPDATE OR REVISE THE INFORMATION CONTAINED HEREIN OR TO OTHERWISE PROVIDE ANY ADDITIONAL MATERIALS. SUBJECT TO THE FOREGOING, AND AS SET FORTH BELOW, DR. MILNER INTENDS TO MAKE AVAILABLE AT AN APPROPRIATE TIME ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE EXTRAORDINARY GENERAL MEETING INCLUDING HOW TO VOTE AT SUCH MEETING.
DR. MILNER HAS INVESTMENTS IN ABCAM PLC (THE “COMPANY”), AND CONSEQUENTLY HAS A FINANCIAL INTEREST IN THE PROFITABILITY OF HIS POSITIONS IN THE COMPANY. ACCORDINGLY THIS DOCUMENT SHOULD NOT BE REGARDED AS IMPARTIAL. NOTHING IN THIS DOCUMENT SHOULD BE TAKEN AS ANY INDICATION OF DR. MILNER 'S CURRENT OR FUTURE TRADING OR VOTING INTENTIONS AND/OR ACTIVITIES WHICH MAY CHANGE AT ANY TIME.
CERTAIN INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT IS BASED ON PUBLICLY AVAILABLE INFORMATION WITH RESPECT TO ABCAM PLC (THE "COMPANY"), INCLUDING PUBLIC FILINGS AND DISCLOSURES MADE BY THE COMPANY AND OTHER SOURCES, AS WELL AS DR. MILNER'S ANALYSIS OF SUCH PUBLICLY AVAILABLE INFORMATION. DR. MILNER HAS RELIED UPON AND ASSUMED, WITHOUT INDEPENDENT VERIFICATION, THE ACCURACY AND COMPLETENESS OF SUCH INFORMATION, AND NO REPRESENTATION OR WARRANTY IS MADE THAT ANY SUCH DATA OR INFORMATION IS COMPLETE OR ACCURATE. DR. MILNER RECOGNISES THAT THERE MAY BE CONFIDENTIAL OR OTHERWISE NON-PUBLIC INFORMATION WITH RESPECT TO THE COMPANY THAT COULD ALTER THE OPINIONS OF DR. MILNER WERE SUCH INFORMATION KNOWN.
NO REPRESENTATION, WARRANTY OR UNDERTAKING, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IS GIVEN AND NO RESPONSIBILITY OR LIABILITY OR DUTY OF CARE IS OR WILL BE ACCEPTED BY DR. MILNER CONCERNING: (I) THIS DOCUMENT AND ITS CONTENTS, INCLUDING WHETHER THE INFORMATION AND OPINIONS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE ACCURATE, FAIR, COMPLETE OR CURRENT; (II) THE PROVISION OF ANY FURTHER INFORMATION, WHETHER BY WAY OF UPDATE TO THE INFORMATION AND OPINIONS CONTAINED IN THIS DOCUMENT OR OTHERWISE TO THE RECIPIENT AFTER THE DATE OF THIS DOCUMENT; OR (III) THAT DR. MILNER'S INVESTMENT PROCESSES OR INVESTMENT OBJECTIVES WILL OR ARE LIKELY TO BE ACHIEVED OR SUCCESSFUL OR THAT DR. MILNER'S INVESTMENTS WILL MAKE ANY PROFIT OR WILL NOT SUSTAIN LOSSES. PAST PERFORMANCE IS NOT INDICATIVE OF FUTURE RESULTS. TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW, DR. MILNER WILL NOT BE RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY LOSSES, WHETHER DIRECT, INDIRECT OR CONSEQUENTIAL, INCLUDING LOSS OF PROFITS, DAMAGES, COSTS, CLAIMS OR EXPENSES RELATING TO OR ARISING FROM THE RECIPIENT'S OR ANY PERSON'S RELIANCE ON THIS DOCUMENT.
EXCEPT FOR THE HISTORICAL INFORMATION CONTAINED HEREIN, THE INFORMATION AND OPINIONS INCLUDED IN THIS DOCUMENT CONSTITUTE FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS, INCLUDING ESTIMATES AND PROJECTIONS PREPARED WITH RESPECT TO, AMONG OTHER THINGS, THE COMPANY'S ANTICIPATED OPERATING PERFORMANCE, THE VALUE OF THE COMPANY'S SECURITIES, DEBT OR ANY RELATED FINANCIAL INSTRUMENTS THAT ARE BASED UPON OR RELATE TO THE VALUE OF SECURITIES OF THE COMPANY (COLLECTIVELY, "COMPANY SECURITIES"), GENERAL ECONOMIC AND MARKET CONDITIONS AND OTHER FUTURE EVENTS. YOU SHOULD BE AWARE THAT ALL FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS, ESTIMATES AND PROJECTIONS ARE INHERENTLY UNCERTAIN AND SUBJECT TO SIGNIFICANT ECONOMIC, COMPETITIVE, AND OTHER UNCERTAINTIES AND CONTINGENCIES AND HAVE BEEN INCLUDED SOLELY FOR ILLUSTRATIVE PURPOSES. ACTUAL RESULTS MAY DIFFER MATERIALLY FROM THE INFORMATION CONTAINED HEREIN DUE TO REASONS THAT MAY OR MAY NOT BE FORESEEABLE. THERE CAN BE NO ASSURANCE THAT THE COMPANY SECURITIES WILL TRADE AT THE PRICES THAT MAY BE IMPLIED HEREIN, AND THERE CAN BE NO ASSURANCE THAT ANY ESTIMATE, PROJECTION OR ASSUMPTION HEREIN IS, OR WILL BE PROVEN, CORRECT.
THIS DOCUMENT DOES NOT CONSTITUTE (A) AN OFFER OR INVITATION TO BUY OR SELL, OR A SOLICITATION OF AN OFFER TO BUY OR SELL, ANY SECURITY OR OTHER FINANCIAL INSTRUMENT AND NO LEGAL RELATIONS SHALL BE CREATED BY ITS ISSUE, (B) A "FINANCIAL PROMOTION" FOR THE PURPOSES OF THE FINANCIAL SERVICES AND MARKETS ACT 2000, (C)"INVESTMENT ADVICE" AS DEFINED BY THE FCA HANDBOOK, (D) "INVESTMENT RESEARCH" AS DEFINED BY THE FCA HANDBOOK, OR (E) AN "INVESTMENT RECOMMENDATION" AS DEFINED BY REGULATION (EU) 596/2014 AND BY REGULATION (EU) NO. 596/2014 AS IT FORMS PART OF U.K. DOMESTIC LAW BY VIRTUE OF SECTION 3 OF THE EUROPEAN UNION (WITHDRAWAL) ACT 2018 ("EUWA 2018") INCLUDING AS AMENDED BY REGULATIONS ISSUED UNDER SECTION 8 OF EUWA 2018. THIS DOCUMENT IS NOT (AND MAY NOT BE CONSTRUED TO BE) LEGAL, TAX, INVESTMENT, FINANCIAL OR OTHER ADVICE. EACH RECIPIENT SHOULD CONSULT THEIR OWN LEGAL COUNSEL AND TAX AND FINANCIAL ADVISERS AS TO LEGAL AND OTHER MATTERS CONCERNING THE INFORMATION CONTAINED HEREIN. THIS DOCUMENT DOES NOT PURPORT TO BE ALL-INCLUSIVE OR TO CONTAIN ALL OF THE INFORMATION THAT MAY BE RELEVANT TO AN EVALUATION OF THE COMPANY, COMPANY SECURITIES OR THE MATTERS DESCRIBED HEREIN.
NO AGREEMENT, COMMITMENT, UNDERSTANDING OR OTHER LEGAL RELATIONSHIP EXISTS OR MAY BE DEEMED TO EXIST BETWEEN OR AMONG DR. MILNER AND ANY OTHER PERSON BY VIRTUE OF FURNISHING THIS DOCUMENT. DR. MILNER IS NOT ACTING FOR OR ON BEHALF OF, AND IS NOT PROVIDING ANY ADVICE OR SERVICE TO, ANY RECIPIENT OF THIS DOCUMENT. DR. MILNER IS NOT RESPONSIBLE TO ANY PERSON FOR PROVIDING ADVICE IN RELATION TO THE SUBJECT MATTER OF THIS DOCUMENT. BEFORE DETERMINING ON ANY COURSE OF ACTION, ANY RECIPIENT SHOULD CONSIDER ANY ASSOCIATED RISKS AND CONSEQUENCES AND CONSULT WITH ITS OWN INDEPENDENT ADVISORS AS IT DEEMS NECESSARY.
DR. MILNER HAS NOT SOUGHT OR OBTAINED CONSENT FROM ANY THIRD PARTY TO USE ANY STATEMENTS OR INFORMATION CONTAINED HEREIN. ANY SUCH STATEMENTS OR INFORMATION SHOULD NOT BE VIEWED AS INDICATING THE SUPPORT OF SUCH THIRD PARTY FOR THE VIEWS EXPRESSED HEREIN. ALL TRADEMARKS AND TRADE NAMES USED HEREIN ARE THE EXCLUSIVE PROPERTY OF THEIR RESPECTIVE OWNERS.
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