City grandee Mervyn Davies denounces Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine and pledges to protect jobs of staff working for Holland & Barrett
City grandee Mervyn Davies has denounced Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine and pledged to protect the jobs of thousands of British staff working for Holland & Barrett, which is linked to two sanctioned oligarchs.
Lord Davies has taken over the running of Holland & Barrett’s parent company, private equity firm LetterOne, which was founded by Mikhail Fridman.
‘I have made it very clear: I am 100 per cent opposed to everything that is going on. It is absolutely appalling,’ Lord Davies said. ‘I am totally appalled by what Putin is doing, it is just disgusting and it has to be stopped.’
Staying: Lord Davies, who has taken over the running of Holland & Barrett’s parent company, with his wife Jeanne
The former banker removed Fridman and fellow oligarch Petr Aven, who own nearly 50 per cent of LetterOne, from the board earlier this month and froze their shareholdings.
Lord Davies – who served as a Trade Minister under Gordon Brown – was hired as deputy chairman of LetterOne in 2015 and stepped up to be chairman of the business which says it supports 120,000 jobs through its investments.
He told The Mail on Sunday: ‘I felt I had a duty to customers, employees and the businesses to stay.’
Fridman and Aven, who have been sanctioned by the European Union, cannot now receive dividends or benefit from their holding in any way. Their shares can only be unfrozen at the discretion of Lord Davies and the rest of the LetterOne board.
There is no obligation to remove the freeze even if sanctions are lifted.
Three other oligarchs, German Khan, Alexei Kuzmichev and Andrei Kosogov, have also resigned from the board, though none of them have been sanctioned. The trio own the remainder of LetterOne. Their holding has not been frozen.
Lord Davies – now in charge alongside chief executive Jonathan Muir – defended his decision to take the helm, saying: ‘I am not babysitting for sanctioned persons. I am here to protect jobs and to create enormous value for Ukrainian-related charities.’
The company has promised a $150million donation, plus all dividends for the forseeable future that would have gone to the oligarchs, will instead be handed to Ukrainian causes. Fridman and Aven said the EU sanctions are spurious and unfounded and have vowed to contest them.