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Shareholders group forced to backpedal on Billabong

Billabong founder Gordon Merchant has forced the Australian Shareholders Association to retract some statements it made in a recommendation to dump him from the struggling surfwear retailer's board.

The ASA said it had received correspondence last Monday from law firm Minter Ellison, acting for Mr Merchant and former Billabong colleague Colette Paull, and law firm Allens, representing the company itself, after recommending investors vote against their re-election as directors at this month's AGM.

While the ASA has stuck with its recommendation, it was forced to retract statements and clarify points supporting its stance, including allegations that Mr Merchant "effectively prevented" Billabong's board from accepting a $3.30-a-share offer from former suitor TPG in February.

"At no point does any member of the ASA seek to damage the reputation of any individual," the association said in a statement.

"The ASA seeks only to hold accountable those company directors and executives for company performance and their decisions which affect all shareholders through share price and returns."

The ASA said it was not correct to state that Mr Merchant "effectively prevented" the board from accepting the offer of $3.30.


It also accepts that the board made a unanimous decision not to allow due diligence by TPG when it made a $3.30-a-share indicative offer, and said it was incorrect for the ASA to suggest that Mr Merchant should have known of any "perilous financial position" ahead of his personal decision to reject the original offer in February.

Billabong subsequently made a series of profit downgrades and was forced to raise capital.

"The ASA trusts that this public retraction requested by legal advisers to BBG and Mr Merchant and Ms Paull represents an appropriate clarification of the facts," the association said.

Comment is being sought from Mr Merchant and Billabong.