Emeco shareholders have hit the company with a first strike as its chairman insisted his 12 years on the board had not jeopardised his independence. Nearly 44 per cent of shares were voted against the mining services and rental group’s remuneration report at its annual meeting in Sydney on Wednesday, easily clearing the 25 per cent threshold for a strike. The day could have been more embarrassing for Emeco but for its major shareholder, US fund Black Diamond Capital, backing termination benefits and a new issue of long-term bonus rights to Emeco chief executive Ian Testrow after overwhelming proxy opposition from smaller shareholders. Chair Peter Richards had earlier reiterated that the retention of Mr Testrow, who was paid $2.9 million last financial year for running the $301m group, was “crucial to the ongoing profitability and sustainability” of Emeco. “We are confident that Ian’s continued operational and strategic leadership over the coming four years will deliver significant value to shareholders,” he said. It is not unusual for companies to limit the tenure of directors to 10 years to encourage board renewal and avoid the risk of them being captured by management and losing the will to challenge executives. However, Mr Richards told the AGM that whereas “some guidelines” suggested that his 12-year tenure “jeopardises independence”, he believed that it had “deepened my knowledge of the company and its importance to the Australian mining industry”. “Further, it has provided continuity through significant board changes,” he said. “As such, I can assure shareholders that my position remains independent.” The resolutions for the payment of potentially millions of dollars in termination benefits and the award of at least 2.3 million performance-based rights to Mr Testrow for the next three years were opposed by 86 per cent of the proxy vote. However, both got over the line in a subsequent poll with the support of Black Diamond Capital. Mr Testrow told shareholders that Emeco’s first half profit was expected to be line with the June half-year, with growth tipped to resume in early 2024.