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Opposition to Berkeley appointment of Tony Pidgley as chairman

Angry shareholders were expected to oppose the re-election of Berkeley Group executive chairman Tony Pidgley at its the AGM today.

According to reports in The Times, corporate governance body PIRC said that equity awards on offer at the house builder were “highly excessive”.

It also recommended that shareholders oppose the re-election of Tony Pidgley, the former chief executive, who was elevated in June to executive chairman.

Mr Pidgley is due to be announced as chairman at today’s AGM in Cobham, Surrey.

Guidelines on boardroom best practice dictate that a former chief executive should not take the chairman’s job, unless the move can be adequately justified to investors.

“The company has not provided sufficient justification or explained in great detail any safeguards that it has put in place,” the lobby group said.

Meanwhile a large contingent of the 83-strong Berkeley Homes Collective were due to attend the AGM – a group of homebuyers formed in January 2009 being threatened with legal action by Berkeley over being forced into defaulting on homes bought off-plan prior to the unforeseen property collapse.

Berkeley has withheld the deposits of the buyers and is now threatening to sue for the reduced amount it will make on the purchases that fail to complete.

The group of homebuyers has said they are not unwilling to complete the purchases but are unable to complete due to difficulties obtaining mortgages for properties that have dropped significantly in value.

Group member Euan Robertson, who is also a Berkeley shareholder said: “The significance of loss is hugely imbalanced.

“Deposits are generally accepted as a forfeit in the event of default in most contracts but now we face losing everything as Berkeley embark on a bullying and uncommercial campaign to chase us into bankruptcy.”

An interim statement today revealed Berkeley’s home bookings in the first four months of its fiscal year were more than £600 million as the housing crash showed signs of easing.

The company had net cash in excess of £300 million and Berkeley said it has started buying sites with the cash, including Johnson House in London’s Belgravia district.