Stobart and Tinkler

So, who is really in charge of Stobart Group? On Monday 21 January the answer to that question was suddenly not so simple.

Andrew Tinkler and William Stobart have driven the company since their holding company, WA Developments International, acquired Eddie Stobart in 2004 – and subsequently reverse merged with WA Developments in 2007 – creating the LSE-listed company we know today.

Since then the business has diversified enormously – and that doesn’t include the acquisitions of James Irlam Logistics, Innovate’s chilled business and Autologic in 2008, 09 and 12 respectively. Stobart isn’t just its £519m (and counting) transport business: it is a property portfolio; it is a civil engineering firm; it owns and operates Southend airport and its distributes and processes biomass.

All this activity though has put a lot of pressure on the Stobart share price. If you’d have bought shares at the end of March they would have cost 137p. If you’d sold it on Friday 18 January the shares would have been worth 92p. That’s a 35% fall.

Oxfordshire-based investment house Invesco holds 36.61% of Stobart Group’s publicly traded shares. It’s head of UK Equities Neil Woodford told the Financial Times “There has been a need for a change in leadership on the board and Avril fits that role perfectly.”

Avril is Avril Palmer-Baunack. Until 21 January deputy chief executive at Stobart, now executive chairman, replacing the immediately departing Rodney  Baker-Bates who had been with the company since 2007. Two days earlier Stobart had discontinued its chilled division, and on the same day as Palmer-Baunack took control it sold its automotive aftersales arm to Paragon Group.

The FT reported that these sales were just the beginning, something Stobart has not sought to refute. With transport promising turnover in the £630m region (adding Eddie Stobart and Autologic turnover together) what is non-core in the group, and what is non-core in transport is something The Hub will keep a close eye on.