Bowleven directors ousted after bitter investor battle

Bowleven boss Kevin Hart has been ousted from the Edinburgh oil firm. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Bowleven boss Kevin Hart has been ousted from the Edinburgh oil firm. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

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Kevin Hart, the chief executive of Edinburgh-based oil and gas explorer Bowleven, has been ousted after a bitter battle with a rebel investor.

Following a general meeting called by Crown Ocean Capital, Hart saw 53.32 per cent of shareholder votes cast in favour of his removal.

• READ MORE: Oil explorer Bowleven prepares for investor clash

The vote has also triggered the immediate departure of finance director Kerry Crawford, along with non-executives John Martin, Tim Sullivan and Philip Tracy.

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However, chairman Billy Allan narrowly escaped the purge, with 50.65 per cent of the votes going against his removal. He will remain in his post, as will chief operating officer David Clarkson.

Crown Ocean Capital succeeded in having two of its own nominees appointed to the Bowleven board – corporate lawyer Christopher Ashworth and turnaround specialist Eli Chahin.

The Monaco-based private investor, which has built up a 22 per cent stake in Aim-quoted Bowleven, has questioned the explorer’s strategy, track record and board composition, and is seeking to convert the Africa-focused business into a holding company.

But Allan, the former Asco boss who earlier this month launched a £92 million fund to invest in small and medium-sized support services companies, has said that Crown Ocean Capital’s approach “lacks any strategy to maximise the value of Bowleven’s assets and disregards the vital need for a board to serve all shareholders”.

Crown Ocean Capital today expressed gratitude to fellow investors “for the support they have shown for change in leadership and direction at the company”.

It added: “Shareholders have provided the new board with a clear mandate to implement a new strategy.”

Meanwhile, Victoria Oil & Gas (VOG), which last week struck a deal to buy an 80 per cent stake in Bowleven’s Bomono onshore gas project in Cameroon, pointed out that only it has the right to terminate the agreement following Crown Ocean’s boardroom coup.

“VOG continues to look forward to developing the Bomono project with Bowleven and will shortly be in contact with the board of Bowleven in this respect,” it added.

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