HIGH-PROFILE Scottish businessman Hamish Grossart has surprised the City by stepping down as chairman of CCTV specialist IndigoVision, quipping that investors will be relieved to have someone “more in tune with technology in the chair”.
Mr Grossart, who has held the post for 20 years, said the decision was driven by a desire to “do a bit less”. He was 60 earlier this month.
IndigoVision’s biggest shareholder is New Pistoia Income, the Swiss-based investment firm that is currently embroiled in a campaign to oust the chairman of Hornby. New Pistoia is the second biggest shareholder in the model train maker.
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Asked if shareholder pressure had any influence on the decision, an upbeat Mr Grossart, the third biggest shareholder in IndigoVision, said: “I’m sure the shareholders will be delighted to get somebody younger and more in tune with technology in the chair. I let the board know I wanted to go over the Easter weekend.”
Mr Grossart’s departure comes with the IndigoVision share price remaining well adrift of the 520p it reached in June 2014. The stock progressively fell in the next two years, dropping to 127.5 in July 2016, making only a partial recovery since. Shares closed down 0.5p last night at 180p.
The company, which has been listed since 2003, made a pre-tax profit of $100,000 in 2016, having recorded a $700,000 loss in 2015.
Mr Grossart’s time as chairman of IndigoVision saw the company see off a management buyout bid, led by founder and former chief executive Oliver Vellacott, with Scottish Equity Partners in 2012. IndigoVision said the proposals undervalued the company. Mr Vellacott then mounted and subsequently abandoned a bid to oust Mr Grossart as chairman.
Asked to sum up his time with IndigoVision, Mr Grossart said: “It was a credit card and an idea when it started. It has done reasonably well. I think it will go on to greater things.”
Mr Grossart, who stepped down as deputy chairman of British Polythene Industries following its acquisition by RPC last summer, is not retiring completely.
The businessman, who is the nephew of merchant banker Sir Angus Grossart, a former chairman of EFT Group, Royal Doulton and Scottish Highland Hotels Group, and the ex-deputy chairman of Cairn Energy, signalled an interest in taking up non-salaried positions on the boards of schools or universities to “put something back”.
“I’ve been quite lucky,” he said. “I’ve had an interesting time. I’ve still got one or two things that I do, but I’m happy to plan to do less.”
He added: “I don’t feel I can go at quite the same pace as I used to go at. That’s not meant to sound pathetic. The level of energy you can generate at 35 is very different from 60. I’d like to continue to be active, but do less.”
Building on the theme, Mr Grossart said a piece of advice from a former colleague has always stuck with him. He recalls how Ian Chapman, founding chairman of Radio Clyde, brought up the matter of his own retirement just as Scottish Radio Holdings completed a restructuring following acquisition of Radio Forth. Mr Grossart said: “He said you need to go at some time. I suppose that went in as a piece of good advice. I think the business is in good shape at the moment, and is going forward. It’s a suitable time to find a younger model.”
Asked whether the board had been surprised to learn of his decision, Mr Grossart said: “I don’t know. I didn’t ask them. We know each other well. You’d need to ask them that… I don’t think so. You have go to ask yourself the question: when do you go?”
Marcus Kneen, chief executive of IndigoVision, said Mr Grossart had been a major influence on the company and himself, stating that “we have worked well together”.
“Hamish has been a big supporter certainly of IndigoVision and of me,” he added, stating that Mr Grossart will continue to be an adviser to him and perhaps the company in the future. “It’s normal,” he said. “I put out a note to employees saying none of us, not even the chairman, can fight time.”
Asked if shareholders had called for Mr Grossart to step down, Mr Kneen replied: “We’re in a really good situation where, whether it’s our customer base, our suppliers or our shareholders, we have got very good and open relationships with them. New Pistoia are the major shareholders and we have got very open communications with them, [we] always have done.”
IndigoVision said it aims to have a successor to Mr Grossart, who was paid $82,000 for his role at the company in 2016, in place by September 30.
Mr Kneen was ebullient about IndigoVision’s current prospects, noting that it had recently launched a new range of anti-cyber crime cameras in Las Vegas.
He hailed the new product as a “big development for the business”. It comes amid increasing hacks on camera systems, which Mr Kneen said had also occurred during the US Presidential inauguration. “It’s good timing,” he said.
Mr Kneen added: “We are mindful of the petro economies and we are putting a lot of effort into building a bigger and stronger US business, because it is less exposed to the vagaries of economic cycles.”
The company has also started hiring engineers, after signalling its commitment to do so in an interview with The Herald last month.
Meanwhile, asked whether he thought the announcement of a snap General Election on June 8 would heap even more uncertainty on business, Mr Grossart said: “My view is that businesses have to deal with uncertainty.
“Of course, it is easier if you have complete certainty. But events happen, political events happen, geopolitical events happen, corporate events happen, human events happen. It’s quite
difficult to try and legislate or plan in advance for everything if you are running a business. So what you have got to do is make sure you are able to cope well in all circumstances.
“I suppose you could argue the economic performance in Scotland hasn’t been exactly startling over the last 15 or 20 years, but these things tend to go in cycles.”