Businessman William Kirsh has called on the old board members of technology firm Cognition to step down for failing to increase shareholder value.

Kirsh with other minority shareholders forced the company to hold an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) on Friday to appoint three nonexecutive directors, who he says will play a key role in turning around the ailing business. Of the three, shareholders voted in Dennis Lupambo and Trevor Ahier. Mark Harris, former CEO of Kagiso Media, was rejected by 58% of shareholders.

Minority shareholders are unhappy about the performance of the company despite having bought a number of companies in recent years to provide more technology services.

"Board members have destroyed shareholder value. The honourable thing will be to step down and allow a breath of fresh air to come and rejuvenate the company," Kirsh said.

The Kirsh family owns less than 5% of Cognition. "Objectively, looking at where the share price is, for me that is a big signal that the existing guard must change," he said.

Cognition’s share price has halved over the past five years from a high of R2.11 in January 2013 to close at R1 on Friday.

Opportune Investment CEO Chris Logan is optimistic about the possibility of a turnaround. "Cognition has been neglected and value is gone. The outcome of the EGM was a positive catalyst and I hope it will lead to value being restored," he said.

Cognition operates in the telecoms and technology space where it provides services such as mobile and online voting platforms as well as rewards programmes. It also offers a fax2email platform and marketing and research services, among other things. Kirsh said Cognition needed a compelling growth strategy and a supportive shareholder base to grow shareholder value and attract institutional investor interest.