Dignity appoints new chairman following shareholder coup

Dignity appoints new chairman following shareholder coup
Shareholders ousted the company’s last non-executive chairman in a vote three months ago.

Funeral provider Dignity has appointed a new chairman more than three months after a boardroom coup orchestrated by its biggest shareholder.

John Castagno joined the company last week as non-executive chairman. He also currently sits as an independent on the board of Post Office Insurance.

For the last three months Dignity has been headed by a partner at the asset manager which seized control of the company in April.

Gary Channon will continue running the company as chief executive, but will hand his responsibility as chairman to Mr Castagno.

“I am delighted that John has joined the board of Dignity,” Mr Channon said.

The company has faced a number of challenges in recent years and the team now in place has already taken significant action to position the business to continue to deliver the high level of service that its customers deserve

John Castagno

“His significant financial and commercial experience will be invaluable as the company’s independent non-executive chairman.

“I very much look forward to working with him in my new role as CEO both on the future success of the business and further appointments to the board.”

Mr Castagno said: “Dignity is a business with a long history of supporting its customers at their time of need.

“The company has faced a number of challenges in recent years and the team now in place has already taken significant action to position the business to continue to deliver the high level of service that its customers deserve.”

Phoenix Asset Management, where Mr Channon is a partner, has built up a nearly 30% stake in Dignity in recent years.

It initially expressed its support for Clive Whiley, the group’s chairman, as the company tried to navigate a tough climate.

The Competition and Markets Authority has been probing issues in the funeral market over the past couple of years, an investigation which has sent Dignity’s share price tumbling.

The company was also unable to benefit financially from the higher number of deaths during the Covid-19 pandemic. Government restrictions meant that relatives were less likely to buy more expensive funeral services for their loved ones over the last 16 months.

Phoenix eventually ran out of patience with Mr Whiley, forcing a vote on his future at the company. In April the chairman was forced out, with 55% of shareholder votes cast against him.

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