At the May 17 annual shareholders meeting of the Quarto Group in London, four incumbent directors, including company chairman Peter Read, lost their reelection bid. The four were defeated by a slate backed by Quarto cofounder and former CEO Laurence Orbach, who was ousted from that position in 2012 by a group of activist shareholders looking to move the publisher in a new direction.
Despite his earlier ejection from the board, Orbach still controlled 20% of the company’s stock. Working with the support of Chuk Kin Lau, head of printer Lion Rock Group who has a 27% stake in Quartos, Orbach was able to return to power.
With the shareholder vote, Orbach is now executive chairman. Lau is executive director. Mei Lan Lam, CFO of Lion Rock, and Mick Mousley, former Quarto CFO, were appointed non-executive directors.
In addition to Peter Read, other directors gone from the board are Leslie-Ann Reed, Jess Burley, and Claire Capeci. Marcus Leaver, who has run the day-to-day operations of Quarto since 2012, was reappointed to the board.
Since Orbach's departure, Leaver has moved ahead with plans to focus Quarto's business solely on book publishing. He has sold off a number of non-publishing units, while simultaneously building a more integrated global workforce. Though headquarted in London, Quarto sells its product in over 50 countries, including America. In the U.S. alone, Quarto had sales of almost $82 million last year, accounting for roughly 54% of the publisher's total revenue.
Quarto had a rocky 2017, rejecting an unsolicited take-over bid, and seeing its earnings fall by about 57%. Leaver called 2017 “a transitional year," but he is confident that his decision to focus on publishing will pay dividends.