Sector News

Murray Goulburn chairman Philip Tracy to be replaced by John Spark

March 20, 2017
Food & Drink

Dairy group Murray Goulburn has announced the replacement of long-serving chairman Philip Tracy, tapping a non-supplier chairman in current Newcrest director John Spark.

Mr Spark will take the reins of the board from April 1, the day after Mr Tracy steps down after six years in the position.

Mr Spark comes into the role at a crucial juncture for Murray Goulburn (MGC), which has regularly disappointed both shareholders and suppliers alike since listing 18 months ago.

In the time since the IPO it has seen its chief executive and chief financial officers depart after detailing multiple profit downgrades and severe price cuts for suppliers in a challenging dairy environment.

The cuts to farmers hurt confidence in the group’s brand, with many suppliers walking out on the group last year.

For Mr Tracy, a supplier himself, it meant a tumultuous end to a period as chairman that included him presiding over a successful float in 2015.

His replacement, Mr Spark, has an agribusiness background given five years as chairman of animal nutrition group Ridley Corporation from 2010 to 2015 and the ownership, until recently, of an Angus cattle farm in Victoria.

The dairy co-op also spruiked his capabilities as a turnaround specialist, noting his 15 years at Ferrier Hodgson that included the “successful restructuring and return to profitability of many large Australian companies”.

Murray Goulburn shareholders are desperately craving a return to profitability after the group reported a loss of over $30 million in the first-half.

Mr Spark is perhaps best-known, however, in the resources space given a directorship at gold miner Newcrest since 2007 as well as a previous stint on the board of Macarthur Coal.

“It is a true honour to have an opportunity to apply my passion and expertise to the chairmanship of Murray Goulburn, a proudly farmer-controlled co-operative that has grown to become Australia’s largest dairy producer and one of the country’s largest agricultural exporters,” he said of the appointment.

“I look forward to playing a central role at Murray Goulburn and working closely with my fellow directors and CEO, Ari Mervis, to build a stronger company for the future.”

Mr Tracy said the timing appeared right for the handover given a more settled period recently on the heels of the tumult of 2016.

“It has been an honour to be chairman and contribute to the co-operative which has invested in world-class infrastructure and developed branded retail opportunities,” he said.

“I would also like to thank each supplier for their ongoing support of the co-operative. I wish them all, MG and the Australian dairy industry every success.”

By Daniel Palmer

Source: The Australian

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