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AGM challenge Sika board faces fresh legal assault from founder’s family

Urs Burkard expressing his disapproval during Sika's April AGM


The controlling shareholders of Swiss company Sika have launched a new legal challenge against the company’s board after their vote was restricted at a second successive annual general meeting.

The Burkard family, which owns 53% of Sika’s voting rights, wants to sell its stake to French industrial conglomerate Saint-Gobain. But Sika’s directors object to the takeover and have controversially foiled attempts to vote them off the board by artificially limiting AGM votes.

For a second year in a row the Burkard family members, via their Schenker-Winkler Holding (SWH) structure, have lodged a legal objection to their voting rights being stifled. Last year, a court refused to deliver a definitive verdict until another legal issue had been cleared up.

That ruling - on whether the Burkards can sell their stake via SWH without prior Sika board approval -. is expected this autumn. The Burkard clan are descendants of the company’s founder, Kaspar Winkler.

In the meantime, the eighteen-month long civil war within the company rages on with neither side showing any signs of budging an inch. SWH has also previously lodged claims for damages against individual Sika board members. Those directors are currently working without pay having had their compensation packages rejected at successive AGMs.

Saint-Gobain is waiting on the sidelines, repeatedly stating that it will bide its time to win the prize of one of Switzerland’s most successful industrial companies. If the transfer of privileged Burkard shares goes through, Saint-Gobain would control more than half of the company’s voting rights with just 16% of the firm’s capital.

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