Wed. Feb 28th, 2024

Investors in Hipgnosis Songs Fund on Thursday overwhelmingly demanded a new board make structural changes to the troubled music rights company in ways that don’t include selling off part of its 65,000-song catalog, which includes compositions by Neil Young, Shakira and the Red Hot Chili Peppers

At the company’s annual meeting of shareholders in London, a majority of investors voted no on a resolution “to continue running the fund in its current form”–what’s known as a continuation vote — and they rejected a plan to sell a package of 29 song catalogs to Hipgnosis’ Blackstone-backed sister fund, according to the fund.

The ‘no’ vote signals unequivocal shareholder anger with the company founded by Merck Mercuriadis, and it kicks off a 6-month countdown for the board to come up with a plan “for the reconstruction, reorganisation, or winding-up of the company,” possibly “liquidating all or part of the company’s existing porfolio of investments,” according to the board’s statement.

“While shareholders have not supported our proposed transaction or the continuation vote, it is clear that they share our belief in the inherent quality and potential of these assets,” Sylvia Coleman, senior independent director of Hipgnosis Songs Fund said in an emailed statement. “Directors are now expediting the appointment of a new chair who will drive the strategic review we have already announced, with a clear focus on delivering improved shareholder value.”

Merck Mercuriadis photographed on February 8, 2021 in Los Angeles.

Spencer Lowell

In separate emailed comments, Mercuriadis said the shareholder vote “marks an opportunity to reset and focus on the future.”

“Our conversations with shareholders have revealed a consensus that they are enthusiastic about the quality of the Company’s iconic portfolio of songs, however it is also clear that they are asking for change and we respect that feedback,” he added. “Hipgnosis Song Management’s new management team and I have already started taking the relevant necessary action to meet the expectations of shareholders.”

Investors voted against the re-election of Hipgnosis Songs Fund board Chair Andrew Sutch at the meeting, speeding up the timetable for his departure. Sutch had already announced he would step down before the company’s next annual general meeting in 2024. On Wednesday, the day before the company’s annual meeting, fund directors Andrew Wilkinson and Paul Burger resigned, and last week, the board embarked on a strategic review into the company’s management team.

“Shareholders have spoken and sent a clear message that the status quo is unacceptable and that a total reset is required,” Tom Treanor, the head of research at Asset Value Investors, which owns a roughly 5% stake in the fund, said in an email. “We look forward to a refreshed board working closely with shareholders to turn the company around.”

Mercuriadis, the former manager of Elton John and Guns N’ Roses, will continue as Hipgnosis Songs Fund’s investment advisor. Mercuriadis founded Hipgnosis in 2017 and took it public on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) in July 2018.

“Our commitment to the Company’s shareholders remains absolute and we look forward to working with a new Chair and reconstituted Board during this period to ensure that the Hipgnosis Songs Fund delivers for its shareholders,” Mercuriadis added in his statement. “During this process, shareholders can be certain that Hipgnosis Song Management will continue to manage the Songs with the greatest duty of care as always.”

Hipgnosis Songs Fund’s share price rose 1.2% to 75.90 British pence ($0.92) at 11:20 in London.

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