Onex Corp. ONEX-T is offering to shorten a sunset clause that would keep founder Gerry Schwartz in control of the company to three years in a bid to win support from shareholders over the founder’s plan to step down as CEO.
Mr. Schwartz, 80, is chairman and chief executive officer and also controls the $50-billion private equity and asset management company through multiple voting shares. He plans to step aside this spring, with president Bobby Le Blanc taking over as CEO.
Currently, those voting shares are set to expire when Mr. Schwartz leaves the CEO role. But as part of the transition, Onex initially asked shareholders to extend the dual-class share structure for another five years, keeping Mr. Schwartz in control.
On Monday, the company proposed an amendment to shorten the sunset provision to three years “following consultation with shareholders.”
“I am grateful to shareholders for their continued support and for providing feedback on the voluntary proposal,” Mr. Schwartz said in a prepared statement.
The proposal goes to a vote at Onex’s annual meeting on May 11. If investors turn down the extension, Mr. Schwartz would remain CEO.
“I am confident that shareholders will see the merits of the proposal,” Mr. Schwartz said.
In a note to clients, Canaccord Genuity Group Inc. analyst Scott Chan said he believes the shortened sunset clause “enhances Onex’s chances of a favourable shareholder vote after mixed discussions with shareholders on the initial proposal.”
Mr. Schwartz launched Onex in 1984 and built the company’s clout in private equity through leveraged buyouts. More recently, with Mr. Le Blanc as president, the company has been expanding its reach in credit and wealth management, seeking to make the sources of fees it earns steadier and more diverse.
Last week, Onex announced it will transfer parts of its Gluskin Sheff private wealth management arm to Royal Bank of Canada after some top advisers planned to leave.
Onex earned US$235-million in profit last year, and earned a 3-per-cent return on its private equity portfolio, outperforming public markets that suffered losses in tough conditions for capital markets.
With a report from Andrew Willis