Many shifts in corporate leadership

Graeme Wheeler
Graeme Wheeler
There was plenty of change at the top in some of New Zealand's biggest companies this year, says APNZ business reporter Jamie Gray.

The face of New Zealand business changed over the course of 2012 with a series of senior appointments made to some of the country's top jobs.

Starting from the top, former World Bank managing director Graeme Wheeler took over from Reserve Bank governor Alan Bollard in September.

In central bank speak, Mr Wheeler is considered more ''hawkish'' than his predecessor, but commentators say it is still early days.

Among the corporates, Jonathan Ling stepped down as chief executive of New Zealand's biggest listed company, Fletcher Building. He was replaced by Mark Adamson, a Briton, who came into the Fletcher fold through its US unit, Formica.

Mr Ling, who resigned on September 30, returned to Australia. In a short space of time, Mr Adamson has introduced big changes to top management.

Mark Weldon
Mark Weldon
Sir Henry van der Heyden has stepped down as chairman of Fonterra. Sir Henry has overseen profound changes in the New Zealand dairy sector, starting with the formation of Fonterra itself in 2001. He has been a driving force in getting the Trading Among Farmers share-trading scheme operating. Waikato farmer John Wilson took over as chairman on December 17.

In March, Westpac said it had appointed Peter Clare as its next New Zealand chief executive, replacing George Frazis, who went on to become chief executive of

Westpac subsidiary St George Banking Group. Mr Clare has held senior management positions in St George, Westpac and Commonwealth Bank of Australia. At Auckland International Airport, Adrian Littlewood was appointed chief executive officer in November. Mr Littlewood was previously general manager, retail and commercial, for the airport and before that was with Telecom.

Mr Littlewood replaced Simon Moutter, who was appointed chief executive of Telecom in May. Telecom appointed Tim Miles as chief executive of its information communications and technology (ICT) unit, Gen-i. Mr Miles started his ICT career in New Zealand with IBM, where he was responsible for public sector customers. In 2001, he joined the Vodafone group, and he was chief executive of Vodafone NZ for almost four years. Mr Miles succeeds Chris Quin, who took over as chief executive of Telecom Retail last October.

Henry van der Heyden
Henry van der Heyden
At the NZX, Singapore-based New Zealander Tim Bennett replaced Mark Weldon as chief executive in May. While Mr Bennett was not well known at the time of his appointment, fund managers say he has slotted in well. Mr Bennett was previously a partner at international consultancy firm Oliver Wyman. Mr Weldon, after 10 years in the job, headed south to grow grapes.

The high-profile Rob Fyfe announced he would step down as chief executive of Air New Zealand. Mr Fyfe joined the airline at the start of 2003, becoming chief executive in 2005. Christopher Luxon was appointed chief executive designate in June 2012, having previously served as group general manager international. Before joining Air NZ, Mr Luxon was president and chief executive of Unilever Canada, based in Toronto.

Adam Feeley stepped down as head of the Serious Fraud Office to take a job as chief executive of Lakes District Council in Queenstown. A replacement is yet to be announced.

Refining NZ announced Sjoerd Post would succeed Ken Rivers as chief executive. Early in his career, Mr Post worked for Shell New Zealand.

Tony Radford, a founding director of New Zealand Oil and Gas in 1981, resigned as chairman in October. He was replaced by Peter Griffiths, who joined the board in 2009.

Mark Ashcroft, a partner at corporate executive search company SEQEL, said the number of top jobs rolling over at the same time was purely coincidental.

''The reality is that out there in corporate land, there are probably only 20 or 30 really significant chief executive roles in New Zealand,'' he said.

''In some years, it might be that four or five of them change, and sometimes a few of them fall out at the same time,'' he said.

''When market conditions are tough for a sustained period, it can sometimes drive changes in leadership ''because people think that by changing the leadership of a business, that it will fundamentally improve the performance of the business''.

The past three years have been challenging for many businesses, he said.

''For many companies, they are not actually going under, but they are not doing it easy, either,'' Mr Ashcroft said.

''I think, in some cases, leaders do decide to opt out.''

 

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