‘Project Greenlight’: How Cannon-Brookes sank the AGL split

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Atlassian’s co-founder and climate crusader has ridden the teal wave to pull off the most sophisticated campaigns in Australian corporate history.

It was the last Friday of May and three weeks to go until a shareholder vote that would determine the future of energy giant AGL, Australia’s biggest carbon emitter. Time to crunch the numbers.

There was a rump of “undecideds”, “don’t-knows” or “haven’t-even-considered-its”. But for every one shareholder set to support the board’s controversial plan to break up AGL’s retail arm from its coal-fired power stations, there were two who would vote “no”. Allegra Spender was part of the wave of teal independents and Greens candidates that ran community campaigns to win their electorates.The stakes were high. But with top-tier law firm Allens and Jarden advisers, Cath McCormack and Aidan Allen, it was a campaign executed with war-like precision. Cannon-Brookes was leaving little to chance.

Typically, in corporate Australia, shareholders cast their votes towards the end of the voting period. Because Project Greenlight could not contact all 148,000 of AGL’s shareholders, its next move, was to focus its proxy-vote solicitation efforts on shareholders in those electorates. If only half of AGL’s shareholders voted, Cannon-Brookes’ effective vote would have doubled to almost 23 per cent.

“We are supportive of the company staying as a whole because we think it will be the best thing in the long run,” Martin Currie Australia chief investment officer Reece Birtles said. “It will be a stronger company in 10 years’ time being a combined business.”

 

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