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Jul 12, 2019

Aimia’s top shareholder touts ‘astounding’ board candidates after AGM fiasco

Aimia's management shuffle should come 'within a matter of weeks': Mittleman Brothers


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The largest shareholder of Aimia Inc. (AIM.TO) is calling for better oversight at the loyalty program provider and laying the groundwork for changes in the boardroom after some shareholders expressed outrage over how they were treated at the company’s annual general meeting last month.

“We think it’s absolutely mission critical that we improve the oversight and bring in people that have the skillsets to take on the task at hand,” Christopher Mittleman, chief investment officer of investment holding company Mittleman Brothers LLC, told BNN Bloomberg’s Jon Erlichman Friday.

Mittleman said he’s looking to solidify a new slate of directors that will be better representatives of shareholders’ interests, which he said could be announced in the coming weeks.

“We have a lot of options on the table,” Mittleman said. “We’ve been approached by some high-quality director candidates that we think the market would find absolutely astounding.”

“I think there is an improved path to oversight at Aimia and that should be beneficial for all shareholders.”  

Mittleman expressed disappointment over Aimia’s recent AGM, saying it was “disconcerting” to see shareholders not as engaged as they have been at past meetings.

“We’re sympathetic to the complaints that we heard from that concerned shareholder group,” he said about investors who went public this week with criticism of Aimia’s chairman and claimed security guards “forcibly” removed someone at the meeting. “We were there, we saw the same defects.”

Mittleman added that the meeting was a “brief affair” lasting only 15 minutes, whereas last year’s AGM was closer to 45 minutes with questions taken.  

“It was disappointing,” he said.  

In a statement this week, a spokesperson for Aimia said the meeting was conducted “in accordance with all applicable rules and regulations.”

Mittleman Brothers, which has been investing in Montreal-based Aimia since 2017 after the sale of its Aeroplan loyalty program to Air Canada was announced, currently controls 23.3 per cent of Aimia’s shares.

Since the breakup with Air Canada, Aimia has been trying to chart a new course for itself. The company announced in March it was slashing its workforce and unveiled a major share buyback program.

That same month, Aimia CEO Jeremy Rabe told BNN Bloomberg in an interview the company “respects the views of all our shareholders … no matter what their size is.” But Mittleman said that wasn’t achieved at the company’s most recent meeting.

“It has to be a back and forth [with shareholders], it shouldn’t just be a lecture,” Mittleman said.

“I think they could have done [the meeting] as well by webcasting it and putting the shareholders on mute. I think there were some really fatal failings as to how that meeting was handled.”