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Red Lion investors are restless, based on withheld vote count for directors

Red Lion Hotels, the Spokane hospitality company working its way through some investor discontent, held its recent annual meeting at its downtown headquarters. The May 23 meeting included the re-election of board directors.

We went back one year to Red Lion's 2011 annual meeting, at a time when there was less investor revolt. We checked to see what changed in the election numbers.

In 2012 these same three Red Lion directors were all approved, but with significantly more “withheld” votes than in 2011. 

Richard Barbieri in 2011 got 8.4 million “for” votes, 5.2 million votes withheld.

In 2012 Barbieri got 9.4 million “for” votes, and 5.7 million votes withheld.

Jon Eliassen in 2011 got 13.2 million “for” votes and 403,804 withheld votes.

In 2012 Eliassen got 9.5 million “for” votes and 5.6 milliion votes withheld.

Melvin Keating in 2011 got 13.1 million “for” votes and 537,700 withheld.

This year Keating got 9.5 million “for” votes and  5.6 million withheld votes.

You can go back and see that in the past several months two large groups, including the largest single shareholder (Columbia Pacific) have indicated they want major changes in company operations and strategy. Red Lion execs have agreed and hired Bank of America consultants to provide advice and options.

The huge increase in withheld votes, even without an organized campaign mounted against the officers, suggests that Red Lion shareholders are still sending a message. When shareholders withhold votes, that's not the same as simply choosing to not send back a card or voting instruction. In a withheld vote, the card or instruction email is sent to the company without a vote “for” the nominee.

The votes for Director Richard Barbieri are the odd result. Barbieri managed to get more “for” votes this year and he received more withheld votes, as well.

The RLH stock chart here shows some buoying of share price, since the company announced plans to look at options, including selling off part or all of the company.