The ousted president of Stater Bros., Jack Brown, won a crucial round Tuesday in his fight to take control of the Colton-based grocery gain and to get his job back.
The San Bernardino native garnered enough shareholder votes to elect his three nominees to the nine-member board of directors, Stater Bros. announced Tuesday.
The results of Monday’s shareholder meeting, which were revealed at 9:15 p.m. Tuesday, followed a long and bitter fight between two formerly allied shareholder groups, one led by the suspended Brown and the other by Stater Chairman Bernard R. Garrett.
Shareholders cast 2.2 million votes for each of the Brown group’s three nominees and 1.8 million for each of the Garrett group’s nominees. Elected to the board were Laurence Carr, Martin Matich and John Wallace.
The three new members would give Brown a five-member majority on the board of directors.
“We are very gratified for the shareholders’ support,” Brown said afterward. “I don’t believe I’ll be in the office tomorrow, but it won’t be long now.”
Brown said he will meet with his attorneys to determine when a board meeting can be called so that he can ask directors to lift his suspension.
But the results of Monday’s meeting do not mean that the battle between the shareholder groups has ended. During the meeting, Garrett’s son Mitchel objected to the certification of the election.
He said that at least 400,000 shares should not have been voted for the Brown slate. The Garretts contend that they have the right to vote those shares.
Bernard Garrett said after the meeting that he will challenge the results of the election, saying that the election inspectors certified only the vote count, not the election outcome.
The Garrett and Brown groups had worked together to buy Stater Bros. from Petrolane in 1983 and to take the company public last November. But the alliance began to crack late last year and shattered in February when Stater Bros. suspended Brown.
The company filed suit against Brown charging him with manipulating profit figures so that he and his partners could buy company stock at depressed prices. Brown has vehemently denied the charges.
Brown contended that Garrett’s three nominees were “handpicked,” and he launched a proxy fight to place his own nominees on the board.