The final tally is in at Farmer Brothers, and while three incumbent directors soundly defeated a slate of challengers in shareholder voting last week, family dissidents did pull their weight.
According to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the slate of three candidates put forward by the dissident group led by Carol Farmer Waite, granddaughter of the coffee company’s founder, received 25 percent of the votes. The incumbents, including CEO Michael Keown, won about 73 percent of the votes, with other shares either withheld or not voted.
Separately, an advisory vote to approve the company’s executive compensation plan passed with 67 percent of the votes in favor and 29 percent opposed.
Farmer Brothers, which makes and supplies coffee to restaurants, hotels, casinos and many other food-service providers, moved to Fort Worth last year from southern California and has built a new headquarters complex in Northlake across I-35 from the Texas Motor Speedway. Last week, at its shareholders meeting held in far north Fort Worth, officials announced preliminary results showing that the proxy challenge led by Waite’s group had been defeated by a plurality.
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Waite’s group was critical of decisions made by Keown, hired as CEO in 2012, including to uproot the century-old company from its home in Torrance, Calif. and relocate to Texas. Management pointed out that the company’s stock price had tripled in value under Keown and said the move was needed to modernize the company.
Management was backed by three major shareholder advisory servies, signaling that institutions were likely to side with the company.