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Abano wins bid to sack rebel shareholder Hutson, wife

Abano wins bid to sack rebel shareholder Hutson from job at audiology joint venture

By Paul McBeth

May 19 (BusinessDesk) - Abano Healthcare won a bid to sack rebel shareholder Peter Hutson and his wife Anya from their audiology joint venture, Bay International.

The Employment Relations Authority ruled the Abano directors on the Bay board had the right to end the employment agreements of the Hutsons, who own half the audiology firm, Abano said in a statement. The ruling doesn’t affect the Hutsons’ shareholding, or their rights to board representation.

Abano sought to oust the Hutsons after they rejected a suggestion protocols be put in place to manage conflicts of interest when Peter Hutson’s involvement in a takeover bid emerged last year.

Peter Hutson, as chief executive and executive chair, and Anya Hutson, as human resources director, claimed their continuing employment after the initial three-year fixed term of their contracts meant the Bay board’s right to terminate their employment fell away.

“The meaning advocated flouts business common sense and would produce a commercially absurd outcome,” ERA member Tania Tetitaha said in her May 16 determination. “The respondents would in effect upon becoming permanent employees also become masters in the employment relationship.”

The ruling binds the Hutsons to the terms and conditions of the 2009 agreement, granting the Abano-appointed directors the ability to end their employment. Costs were reserved.

The employment skirmish is the latest in running dispute between Peter Hutson, who owns 15 percent of Abano, and the company’s board. Hutson and fellow shareholder James Reeves are seeking a special meeting to dump chairman Trevor Janes and refresh the board.

Hutson was a director of Abano last September during an attempt by Hutson and Reeves to mount a full takeover bid for Abano pitched as high as $7.80 a share, but which Janes rejected, relying in part on a report by investment house Grant Samuel, which Hutson and Reeves says gave an inflated valuation.

Abano’s shares were unchanged at $7 on Friday, and have gained 9.9 percent this year.


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