Vernon Loucks can't be having much fun. At Baxter International's April 29 annual meeting, investors in the underperforming health-care company repeatedly called for the chairman's resignation and expressed anger about his $500,000 bonus in a year when the company failed to meet its objectives. And a resulution mandating separation of the offices of chairman and CEO, both of which are now held by Loucks, won support from a hefty 30% of shareholders.
No surprise there. A series of restructurings have failed to lift Baxter's profits, and its stock has dropped about 30%, to 23, since early 1993. Investors are still angered, too, by Baxter's guilty plea last year to a U.S. criminal charge of complying with the Arab boycott of Israel.
But so far, Loucks appears to retain the support of his board, which gave him an awkward standing ovation at meeting's end. Director Georges St. Laurent, chairman of Western Bank, says he left the meeting with "a positive view of where the company's headed." Loucks's message to shareholders: "Come back next year" for gladder tidings. They'll be back for sure. Will Loucks?