For a company not particularly in rude health — the outgoing chair described Woolworths’ current condition as “challenging” — the shareholder turnout at the AGM this week was inappropriately slim.

Of course, we all know the sophisticated institutional shareholders do all their engaging behind closed doors where there is no chance they might cause some discomfort to the board with prying questions, but is that good enough these days? It is not about embarrassing anybody but the reality is it’s probably a little easier to hold someone to account for a statement made in public than for a commitment made in private.

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