Dignity backs Whiley as top shareholder moves to oust him as chairman

Phoenix Asset Management, which owns almost 30% of shares in the funeralcare provider, is seeking to oust the executive chairman of Dignity due to ‘some very serious issues’

Phoenix Asset Management, one of Dignity’s top shareholders, has served a requisition notice seeking to remove Clive Whiley as the funeralcare provider’s executive chairman.

However, Dignity has released a letter to shareholders urging investors to vote against the move, adding that Whley has had a “galvanising effect on the business”.

The move comes as Pheonix, which owns 29.9% of shares in Dignity, cited “some very serious issues” as having arisen, which resulted in its move to oust Whiley.

The shareholder said that the funeral director’s actions “in dealing with the matter, internally and externally, left us no choice but to seek his removal as a director”.

Gary Channon, Phoenix’s founder and chief investment officer, is reportedly the group’s ideal replacement in the role, which will be proposed at an investor meeting on 22 April.

While Phoenix did not go into further detail, this move follows the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) preparations to begin regulating the sale and administration of funerals plans next year, after concerns over misleading and high-pressure sales tactics in the industry.

In a statement, Dignity said: “The Independent Directors believe that Clive Whiley has had a galvanising effect on the business, is well-regarded within the business and is respected in the City as an experienced and effective executive chairman.

“He should therefore be given the time to conclude the strategy review and re-positioning of the company with the continuing help of the group’s executive management team, so that the board can reach properly thought-through conclusions, without being dictated to by a minority shareholder whose motivation appears to be driven primarily by its own objectives.”

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