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Jonathan Milner makes shock bid for Abcam executive chairman role

Jonathan Milner has launched an unprecedented bid to take back control of Abcam, the protein research tools company he founded in 1998 and which he says “has lost focus and significantly underperformed” since he stepped down in 2020.

In an open letter, Dr Milner says he intends to solicit shareholder support in an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) in his bid to replace the chairman of the board, Peter Allen, with himself as executive chairman.

Jonathan Milner, founder of Abcam, and an investor, entrepreneur and mentor Picture: Keith Heppell
Jonathan Milner, founder of Abcam, and an investor, entrepreneur and mentor Picture: Keith Heppell

The letter states: “The EGM is an opportunity for shareholders to send a clear message to the Abcam board that we are dissatisfied with the company’s recent performance and that it needs to immediately enhance focus on governance, execution, and cost control.”

It added: “Since October 2020, which coincided with my stepping down, the company has lost focus and significantly underperformed.”

This loss of focus, he says, “falls under the three key areas of governance, execution, and costs”. Dr Milner’s concerns include the lack of shareholders on the board which he says has created “an ‘echo chamber effect’ between the executives, the chairman and the board”, “disproportionate remuneration demands” from executives, and “the chairman is weak”.

In order to fully focus on his Abcam ambitions, Dr Milner “has relinquished all other board member responsibilities with the exception of one private company”.

Abcam responded that it was “surprised” at Dr Milner’s open letter.

Abcam is based on Cambridge Biomedical Campus
Abcam is based on Cambridge Biomedical Campus

An Abcam statement said: “The company was surprised that Dr Milner has decided to make this public statement, given the ongoing discussions with him regarding his appointment to the board.”

The discussions, the statement continued, included a possible offer to return Dr Milner to the board. Abcam noted: “After informing Dr Milner that the board was inclined to appoint him, he immediately rejected such invitation and then requested to be named executive chairman, replacing the current chairman.”

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