THE Board of Australian Agricultural Co has this morning announced the resignation of managing director and chief executive officer, Jason Strong.
In a statement released to the ASX minutes ago, AA Co chairman Donald McGauchie said, the board had thanked Jason for his significant contribution to AA Co and in leading the company as the transition from pastoral company towards a vertically integrated, luxury, branded beef business.
“Jason’s depth of market knowledge and passion for the Australian beef industry has been of tremendous value to AA Co during his four year tenure. He leaves the business a respected leader, colleague and friend. We wish him well as he pursues his future opportunities,” Mr McGauchie said.
Mr Strong said in the same statement: “I am very proud of all that we have achieved at AA Co. To have been able to achieve one of our best operating results in 193 years during the company’s transition is a testament to the business and
everyone in it.”
The AA Co Board said it had engaged recruiter Egon Zehnder to lead an executive search for a new managing director, with
a plan to fill the appointment before the end of calendar year 2017. The position is arguably the highest paid in the entire Australian beef industry.
The board anticipates the search will include both external and internal candidates.
In a significant inclusion in this morning’s release, Shehan Dissanayake, executive director of AA Co, and board representative of largest shareholder, Joe Lewis, advised the board that he should not be considered for the role. Mr Dissanayake surprised many when he took an operations management role with the company last year, in charge of marketing and innovation. Some saw this as a possible step by Mr Lewis’s Tavistock Group, which holds about 40pc of AA Co stock, to gain greater control of the company.
During the executive search period, the leadership team will be augmented by an Interim Operating
Committee, including board members Don McGauchie, Stuart Black and Tom Keene.
The AA Co board is due to hold its annual general meeting in Darwin later this month.
A source close to the AA Co board told Beef Central this morning that the decision was made entirely by Mr Strong.
The source suggested there was a lot of additional ‘strain’ and ‘scrutiny’ in heading a publicly listed company, like AA Co, over privately owned entities. Five years could be a long time under such spotlight.
“The company’s in very good shape,” the contact said, indicating that financial performance was not an underlying reason.
Part of the explanation may be in that AA Co has now more or less completed its transition from ‘cattle producer’ to ‘branded beef company’, under Mr Strong’s direction.
The next stage, however – moving to ‘luxury meals solutions provider’, may require a different skills set. Don’t be surprised if his replacement comes with a strong foods/consumer background.
Mr Strong is expected to participate in AA Co’s annual general meeting later this month, and will transition with his replacement through to around February next year.
AA Co stock fell 8c on the ASX this morning, following the announcement.