Ager-Hanssen puts plans for Johnston Press boardroom coup on hold

Simon Austin's picture
by Simon Austin
Christen Ager-Hanssen

Christen Ager-Hanssen, the largest shareholder at Johnston Press, has abandoned plans for a boardroom coup that would have installed former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond as chairman.

The Norwegian billionaire had previously planned to call an EGM and oust Camilla Rhodes as chairwoman. He had assembled a team to take control of the board, with Salmond as chairman and ex-Local World boss Steve Auckland as chief executive.

However, these plans were thwarted when his advisers discovered a ‘dead hand proxy’ in bondholder agreements that meant a default would have been triggered by his actions, requiring Johnston Press to repay bondholders immediately.

Ager-Hanssen, whose company Custos holds 20.01% of the publisher's shares, told Hold the Front Page that he wanted “JP’s current board to sort out their own mess."

“Custos is putting shareholder interests first by waiting to present any plans or ideas until the forthcoming AGM," he added.

“If and when the current JP board communicate a clear strategy in how to deal with the debt and how to move forward Custos as the biggest shareholder will take action and may come up with an alternative plan for the restructuring of JP.

“Custos have no faith in the current board’s ability to deal with the situation but for the moment we have a wait and see strategy. This may change. Custos will fight for shareholder rights and the Board of JP are accountable towards the shareholders.”

Ager-Hanssen denied that his change of plan was anything to do with Salmond’s role at RT, where he fronts a political chat show. The Kremlin-funded television channel has come under scrutiny in the wake of the attempted murder of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and Yulia, his daughter, in Salisbury.

Yesterday, Ager-Hanssen told the Sunday Times: “There have been no material change to any of our plans regarding JP except timing. There have certainly not been any change in the people involved from our side.

“Alex Salmond will in my opinion be a great chairman for JP as well as Steve Auckland will be a great CEO of the company.”