Shareholders of Great Western Financial want their annual meeting to be held by May 6, more than a month earlier than the date recently set by the board.
Great Western, the target of a takeover fight between H.F. Ahmanson & Co. and Washington Mutual Inc., disclosed Monday that about 53% of its shareholders supported three proposals on Ahmanson's consent solicitation.
The most significant proposal requests Great Western's board to hold the annual meeting by May 6. The board, however, recently set the date for June 13.
Both sides expect that disagreement to be resolved by the Delaware Chancery Court, possibly as early as Thursday. The court has said that it would not rule on the matter until the results of the consent solicitation are certified, which could take another couple of days. The tally released Monday was just preliminary.
"Great Western is running out of excuses for ignoring the will of its stockholders," Ahmanson said in a release. "Stockholders should not have to wait for the additional step of final certification of these results before the Great Western board does the right thing and listens to the true owners of the company."
The preliminary numbers were nevertheless significant because they indicate that Ahmanson has at least a chance at slowing down the execution of the friendly merger agreement between Great Western and Washington Mutual, signed about six weeks ago.
This is because by having the Great Western meeting sooner rather than later, and most importantly for Ahmanson, before any vote on the Washington Mutual offer, it gives Ahmanson the chance of having three directors of its choosing elected to the Great Western board.
After announcing its hostile bid in mid-February, Ahmanson said it would propose three directors for election to Great Western's board at its annual meeting.
Ahmanson also said Monday that it is still awaiting word from Great Western on the results of a fourth proposal on the consent solicitation. That question, which would not be binding but would merely express the sentiment of shareholders, requests that Great Western's board negotiate with Ahmanson and give its offer a fair hearing.
"They have refused to acknowledge that we have enough votes on this resolution," said Charles R. Rinehart, chief executive of Ahmanson, at the annual meeting here Monday. "But we are confident that we have the right number, or else we wouldn't have delivered it in the first place."
About 20 shareholders turned up at Ahmanson's annual meeting, with a handful of questions on the company's proposed takeover. One asked if Ahmanson would be "a prime takeover candidate" if it failed in its bid for Great Western.
"There's been a lot of discussion about that, with much of it created by investment bankers," Mr. Rinehart said. " But none of the banks, with the possible exception of Norwest, showed up at Great Western, even though all were invited."