Monday, 26 March 2018 10:43

Farmers query timing

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
Fonterra chairman John Wilson (right) and chief executive Theo Spierings share a light moment at the announcement. Fonterra chairman John Wilson (right) and chief executive Theo Spierings share a light moment at the announcement.

Fonterra farmers are questioning the timing of the announcement of chief executive‘s Theo Spierings departure.

Federated Farmers Waikato president Andrew McGiven believes the board has been “disingenuous” in bringing the announcement forward.

At its half-year results announcement last week, Fonterra chairman John Wilson revealed Spierings will leave the co-op at the end of this year: the co-op announced a $348 million loss on the back of a disastrous investment in Chinese company, Beingmate.

The co-op board is drawing up a short list of candidates; an international search for a new chief executive started in November last year.

McGiven says in many peoples’ minds Spierings will now be tarred with this result.

“Rightly or wrongly, although he must accept some of the criticism the ultimate accountability must remain with the board who sign all of these important decisions off, and I feel through this announcement that they are almost trying to keep this result at an arm’s length,” McGiven told Dairy News.

Wilson says the board brought forward the announcement by a month.

“We had hoped to make an announcement later but in reality, we are at shortlisting stage…we have started carrying out referee checks and having those kinds of conversations globally,” he says.

“More and more people are starting to be aware of it.”

Wilson could not say when an announcement would be made on new appointment.

However, he says Spierings will continue to drive the co-op strategy “with special emphasis on China”.

“The board and Theo are committed to a high-quality transition to a new CEO and when we have more information in regards to timing we will let our farmers and the wider market know,” says Wilson.

“Until then it is business as usual with the focus on driving returns to our farmers and unitholders.

“We envisage that even after the announcement of our new CEO, Theo will be involved in an advisory role so that we make best use of his knowledge and expertise during the transition.” 

Spierings accepted that the timing of the announcement could be linked to the poor result.

“But if there’s a risk of leakage of process that’s the worst case scenario for our co-op; we have to protect our co-op, our people, our farmers,” he says.

“It’s not a one-man show.”

Spierings joined Fonterra in September, 2011.

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