Lee directors re-elected at annual meeting

Shareholders for Davenport-based newspaper publisher Lee Enterprises on Thursday, March 10, overwhelmingly voted to re-elect the company’s three director nominees – Chairman Mary Junck, Lead Independent Director Herb Moloney and CEO Kevin Mowbray.

The three nominees each received support from more than 70% of the votes cast, according to a news release from Lee Enterprises.

The election results were announced during Lee’s 2022 annual meeting at its headquarters.

The board election was held in the midst of a hostile takeover bid by hedge fund Alden Global Capital. Alden had previously, but unsuccessfully, attempted to nominate two candidates to Lee’s board of directors as part of its efforts to take control of the newspaper publisher.

“We deeply appreciate the record turnout and strong support we received from shareholders at this pivotal annual meeting,” Lee said in the release. “The results represent a resounding rejection of Alden Global Capital’s campaign against Lee. We look forward to continuing to grow the business and building value as we execute our digital growth strategy. We also remain committed to delivering highly valued local journalism, which is at the core of Lee’s strengths and competitive advantage.”

Alden also had recently urged shareholders to vote against Ms. Junck and Mr. Moloney after a judge last month blocked its attempt to nominate its own directors.

Alden officials did not immediately comment on Thursday’s vote. The hedge fund has not publicly indicated what its next move might be in its takeover bid.

The vote showed high participation from Lee shareholders, with more than 75% of Lee’s outstanding shares casting votes on directors –  an increase of over 20 percentage points from the average turnout in the previous three years, Lee said.

Final results will be tabulated and certified within four days, the company added.

On Nov. 22, 2021, Alden made an unsolicited bid to take control of Lee for $24 per share in cash. As of late morning Thursday, Lee’s stock was listed at $30.49 a share.

In the wake of Alden’s unsolicited bid, Lee announced last year that it may launch a “poison pill” plan with the goal of making it more difficult and costly for Alden to get a controlling stake. The plan would allow Lee’s shareholders to buy shares at a 50% discount or possibly get free shares for every share they already own. The plan would take effect if Alden gets control of at least 10% of Lee’s stock. Alden reportedly has about 6% of Lee stock.

Alden has a reputation for deep cuts and selling off real estate and other assets at the newspapers it owns.

Lee Enterprises owns 77 daily newspapers across the nation, including the Quad-City Times, The Dispatch-Argus and Muscatine Journal in the Quad Cities region.

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