Atlassian Co-CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes poses for a photo with Utah Jazz co-owners, Dwyane Wade and Ryan Smith during Round 1 Game 3 of the NBA Playoffs on April 21, 2022 at vivint.SmartHome Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Melissa Majchrzak | National Basketball Association | Getty Images
Atlassian Co-CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes has taken an 11% stake in Australia’s most prominent utility companies, AGL Energy, in an effort to force it to burn less coal, a major contributor to climate change.
The Australian software billionaire, who became a part owner of the United States’ Utah Jazz basketball team in 2020, bought the stake through his private investment group Grok Ventures. He’s now the largest single holder in the company.
Cannon-Brookes has spoken out about threats from climate change, and is now acting on his concerns after the company rejected a previous takeover bid from him and other investors.
The new campaign aims to stop AGL’s proposed split into two companies: Energy retailer AGL Australia and electricity generator Accel Energy. AGL Energy Chairman Peter Botten wrote in a letter to investors that the split would help Australia’s energy system responsibly move toward decarbonization and create value over the long term.
Cannon-Brookes doesn’t share that view.
“The demerger makes no sense, or cents. We believe it destroys value for everyone — shareholders, employees, Australia and the planet,” he wrote in a tweet on Monday. He urged other AGL Energy investors to vote against the proposal.
He elaborated on his position in a letter to AGL Energy’s board.
“Under the demerger proposal, AGL A [Australia] will continue to source a majority of its energy from Accel Energy, which today generates electricity with 50% higher emissions intensity than the rest of the grid,” he wrote. “We believe this exposure to coal-fired power generation is inconsistent with your proposal that AGL A [Australia] will be a leader in sustainability.”
Cannon-Brookes and his friend from the University of New South Wales, Scott Farquhar, founded Atlassian in 2002. The collaboration-software maker went public in 2015, and with revenue growth rates typically above the 30% mark, the stock became a favorite among growth investors.
Growth software companies, particularly those that typically lose money like Atlassian, have lost their sheen in recent months as interest rates increase.
But Cannon-Brookes remains one of the world’s wealthiest people. He and Farquhar each own 19% of Atlassian’s outstanding Class A shares, which are worth a combined $25 billion.
In October, Cannon-Brookes and his wife, Annie, made a “green pledge,” committing to spend over $1.5 billion on climate initiatives by 2030. Grok Ventures has invested in renewable energy company Sun Cable, which is developing infrastructure to store solar power in Australia and move it to Singapore. Grok Ventures also backed WeaveGrid, a San Francisco-based electric-vehicle software start-up.
AGL Energy said on Monday that its coal-fired Loy Yang A power plant in southern Australia went out of service on April 15 because of a generator fault and might not return to service until August, lowering full-year profit expectations.
“Far from leaning into opportunities, splitting it [AGL Energy] puts further pressure on struggling coal generators. We’re seeing this today with Loy Yang A,” Cannon-Brookes wrote in a tweet.