Cordiant faces call to sack board

The Cordiant board directors this week faced calls for their removal as one of the shareholders in the beleaguered group announced proposals for a new management team to rescue the company.

Active Value, which holds 14.1 per cent, is calling for an Extraordinary General Meeting to table plans for a new team. Richard Wheatley, the former chief executive of Jazz FM and a former chief of Leo Burnett, is being proposed as the executive chairman of the group, with Stephen Davidson, the vice-chairman of investment at WestLB, as the finance director.

Active Value is willing to invest £15 million as part of a proposed £30 million to £40 million rescue investment package. "It's too early to have any plans for turning the company round, but the fact that shareholders are willing to continue investing is encouraging," Wheatley said.

The proposals have been dismissed by potential bidders for Cordiant as unworkable. It's also unclear what impact the removal of the board will have on Cordiant's bank covenants, without which the company could be forced into immediate administration.

WPP this week confirmed its interest in a bid and, alongside Publicis and Grey, has been conducting due diligence on the group. WPP is said to be interested in what Cordiant could add to its offering in Asia, while 141 and Cordiant's healthcare and design businesses are also of interest to WPP.

Cordiant's board was also under fire this week for an amendment to the employment contract of the chief executive, David Hearn, who is now in line to receive a payout of 18 months' salary if he leaves Cordiant within two years of the company being taken over by a rival.

The date that the bonus agreements were added to Hearn's contract could be crucial, as the Takeover Code requires any alterations made to contracts during a bid situation to be approved by shareholders.