As if troubled US lead-acid battery-recycling startup Aqua Metals does not have enough on its plate, now a tussle for control of the company is under way.
Shareholders have been warned that a Florida-based hedge fund, Kanen Wealth Management, is attempting to “steal control” of the company at the upcoming annual stockholders meeting on 5 June.
Aqua Metals existing leadership team has written to shareholders urging them to vote for its five director candidates to join the board.
Aqua Metals said the election of directors comes at a “pivotal moment, as the company commercialises its proprietary AquaRefining recycling technology and is poised to revolutionise a $20 billion industry”.
Shareholders are being urged to reject an alternative set of director candidates being proposed by “opportunistic” Kanen— which Aqua Metals claimed has “acquired virtually its entire ‘single-digit’ stake in the company within approximately the past two months”.
However, Kanen, which has an aggregate ownership of around 8%, has hit back in a statement via the US Securities and Exchange Commission to “remind stockholders that Aqua Metals’ share price has declined 85%” over the last year and the incumbent board should be held accountable for stockholder value destruction”.
Kanen has been critical of the recent appointment of Frank Knuettel as Aqua Metals’ chief financial officer and one of the existing leadership’s candidates for election in June.
Knuettel’s appointment was the latest move in the firm’s leadership shake-up after the firm said it would also be replacing its CEO and co-founder Dr Stephen Clarke.
Clarke’s departure came after months of difficulties for the firm, which said last February it had completed its first 24-hour run of continuous operations of lead production after resolving a “sticky lead” condition at its AquaRefining facility in Nevada.