21 September 2008 – The Sunday Times
THE property tycoons David and Simon Reuben have joined a shareholder revolt at Orient Express, the luxury-travel group that owns some of the world’s most famous hotels.
The Reubens, who are understood to hold a 5% stake in Orient Express, are backing calls by two hedge funds for a change in the company’s corporate-governance structure.
The rebels want to scrap Orient Express’s two-class share system. “A” shares, which are held by the Reubens and other ordinary investors, have minimal voting rights. “B” shares, controlled by several members of the Orient Express board, have super voting rights, giving them power to stop changes.
If the capital structure were changed, rival groups would be able to bid for the company. Two other large shareholders are India’s Tata Group and Dubai’s Jumeirah Assets, both of which are reported to be interested in a takeover.
The rebels’ demands will be discussed at a special shareholders’ meeting on October 10. A company spokeswoman confirmed yesterday that the holders of “B” shares would be able to block the proposed change to the capital structure.
In an earlier statement, the company said it considered the special meeting “an expensive and unproductive exercise”.
Sources close to the rebels say that if the demands are blocked at the meeting in October, legal action could follow.