New Elders chief plans organisational review

Elders’ newly appointed managing director Mark Allison is to launch a new review of the company’s organisational structure and will go bush to talk to branch network staff in his first weeks in the new role.
Nanjing Night Net

Mr Allison – who until yesterday was Elders’ chairman – starts work today on a base annual salary of $802,225 as the new chief executive officer and managing director, filling the office vacated by Malcolm Jackman late last year.

The company’s board of directors, meeting on Monday, also elected a new chairman, Hutch Ranck, to replace Mr Allison who has been at the helm of an executive committee charged with finding a new managing director.

Recently appointed director, James Jackson from the NSW North Coast, has been elected deputy chairman of the rural service, agency and export business.

Mr Ranck said Mr Allison, who until this week was also the part-time head of farmer organisation, GrainGrowers, had extensive CEO experience with a number of successful rural businesses including Wesfarmers Landmark, Wesfarmers CSBP, and chemical companies Makhteshim Agan Australasia, and Crop Care Australasia.

Mr Allison also has a director’s interest in Chinese clothing maker and exporter, Frontier Workwear.

He was selected ahead of three other external candidates on a selection shortlist, and Elders’ Australia network boss, David Goodfellow, after throwing his hat in the ring in March.

Mr Allison said he was approached by other board directors to consider taking the role.

“I had no intention of doing the job until March but as the process to appoint a new CEO progressed I had some growing concerns – even though we had a choice of very strong candidates on the shortlist.”

Rumours had been circulating for some months in regional Australia that Mr Allison, who has 30 years experience in the agricultural services sector, had put his name forward to shift from the chairman’s job he took over in June last year.

Mr Allison said Mr Goodfellow, appointed by Mr Jackman and initially widely tipped to be his likely successor, was the first person he spoke to after Monday’s board meeting.

“I think David’s a very good operator,” he said responding to questions about Mr Goodfellow’s future role with the company.

“There is no intention of any immediate change to the way we run the business, but the nature of any new CEO’s role is to review how things are working and I’ll be following that strategy.”

New board chairman Mr Ranck said Mr Allison’s “past experience in running a rural distribution network and his understanding of the opportunities and challenges facing the rural industry, both domestically and abroad”, were highly relevant to Elders’ future operations.

He described Mr Allison’s appointment as another step towards cementing Elders as a pure agribusiness.

Mr Allison said the business was “doing quite well” and he intended to travel to at least some of Elders’ 220 regional branches to discuss its 2013-14 first-half results after they were released on May 19.

“I am mindful that Elders’ staff, clients, security-holders, suppliers and financiers have been through significant change and challenging times in recent years, but I am very encouraged by the progress we are now making towards our goals,” he said.

“Elders is a company with an established branch network, an internationally recognised brand and market-leading positions in key product areas and geographies and we owe it to all our stakeholders to perform to our potential and deliver real value.”

“We will continue our focus on creating a culture that is values, safety and performance-based.

“We will strive to strengthen and expand our domestic retail, agency and financial service products and international operations.”

He said Elders also needed to continue to pursue our capital management and balance sheet improvement objectives.”

Mr Allison advised GrainGrowers on Monday night of his new job at Elders and formally resigned as its CEO, having further scaled back his role with the farmer-owned body in recent months while focusing on his Elders commitments. He remains a GrainGrowers director.

The Land

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