Mixed messages from Marks shareholders
Marks & Spencer executive chairman Sir Stuart Rose appears to have won a key vote at the retailer's annual meeting, but there was significant opposition.
The motion presented by the Local Authority Pension Fund called on M&S to seek a new chairman by July 2010.
Excluding abstentions, 37.7% of voting shareholders were in favour while 62.3% were against.
There has been criticism of Sir Stuart's role as both chairman and chief executive of the company.
He is currently due to retire from M&S in July 2011.
AT THE AGM
Nick Cosgrove, BBC business reporter, Royal Festival Hall.
Never mind Henley, Wimbledon or Ascot, one of the events of the summer is Marks & Spencer's annual general meeting.
There has been renewed interest this year, because of the controversy surrounding Sir Stuart Rose taking up both the chairman and chief executive roles.
So it came as a surprise when arriving at the AGM and talking to the queuing shareholders that I could find almost no dissent.
The private shareholders are a loyal bunch, fiercely proud of M&S and the values it stands for.
Councillor Ian Greenwood, who sponsored the motion, told the BBC he hoped that the board would see the level of support the resolution had received, and decide to bring in a new chairman before 2011.
"I hope they will reflect seriously on this result," he told the BBC.
"If you concentrate too much power in one place it unbalances the governance."
When abstentions are taken into account, it is expected that 40% of voting shareholders will have failed to back the board's position on the combined roles.
'Not a wounded beast'
Sir Stuart told the BBC that while there had been a protest vote, he was still perfectly relaxed about the result.
"It doesn't matter if it was 51% - 49% or 60% - 40%; a win is a win," he said.
I don't feel like a wounded beast - I feel like a chief executive and a chairman, because after all I am both, who wants to carry on and take our company through this recessionary period."
A blog from Manifest, the proxy voting agency, stressed that shareholder resolutions at FTSE 100 companies are very unusual.
"What is notable about the result... is that it managed to attract twice as much support as any previous FTSE 100 shareholder resolution," the blog said.
Sir Stuart Rose: "I don't feel like a wounded beast".
M&S has made concessions to shareholders in recent weeks over the issue of executive bonuses.
Sir Stuart and marketing director, Steven Sharp, are to forego a third of their long-term bonus awards, following criticism from the Association of British Insurers.
It was thought that shareholders might still express their anger at the bonus system by voting against the re-election of Lady Patten, chairman of the remuneration committee.
In the event, 90.2% voted in favour of her re-election with 9.8% voting against.