Culture clash blamed for staff exodus

By Anne Gibson

High-tech company Navman has suffered a staff exodus of several senior executives and engineers.

Although its United States parent, Brunswick, said this week up to 5 per cent of the workforce could be made redundant, several managers and senior personnel had already left due to what has been labelled a culture clash.

Former Navman marine chief Marc Michel blamed such a clash for what he described as a flood of resignations in the past year.

"At a fundamental level, the cultures don't quite match," said Michel of the relationship between the US owners and New Zealand team. The former shareholder and international marine sales and marketing manager said he left last year because he disagreed with how Brunswick was running Navman.

Christine Canfield, former head of human resources at Auckland-based Navman, said she had left about two months ago and many other senior executives had also resigned lately.

"It's sad and very disappointing, very, very sad," Canfield said.

One of the worst aspects was that she had recruited many talented executives from overseas.

Navman, which makes navigation technology, was founded by Peter Maire as Talon Technology in his Auckland garage in 1986 and grew to be a $400 million business. Maire sold out to Brunswick two years ago for $108 million and resigned his chairmanship late last year.

The marine and leisure products giant said earlier this year it would sell Brunswick New Technologies, the division which owns Navman. Analysts are pricing it at between US$300 million to more than US$500 million ($454-757 million).

Its latest accounts showed BNT suffered a US$23.5 million pre-tax loss from discontinued operations - which include Navman - in the second quarter of this year. That compared with a US$3.4 million pre-tax profit in the second quarter of last year from the same businesses.

Former Navman president Jim Doyle said he had various reasons for leaving in April; he was partially motivated by wanting a better work-life balance as he was working from 5am until 10pm too often.

When Brunswick announced the cuts to its New Zealand staff, of which there are more than 600 in Auckland and Christchurch, director Dan Kubera said the redundancies were likely to be across all departments. Kubera could not be reached for comment yesterday on the resignations of senior staff. But Canfield said the announcement did not include the outflow of staff in the past year.

Michael James, Navman's chief financial officer, said all announcements were being made via the US and he could not comment, but acknowledged the departures.

"Lots of people have left," he said, adding that different people had various views about the situation and the reasons people were leaving.

Michel, who left 13 months ago, said he had disagreed with Brunswick's strategy and direction. "I was one of the first to leave, but the most painful thing has been watching the marine engineering team get ripped apart."

Michel said he had recruited much of the team internationally and it was hard to fill key engineering positions - of the 107 staff he estimated at least 15 had left. Navman had 15 staff when he joined in 1997 but that had grown to several hundred by the time he left last year.

Michel said when the company was in New Zealand hands, it had an open, flat and robust culture. That changed under new ownership.

Going, going, gone

Key Navman staff to have left in past year:
President Jim Doyle.
Chief operating officer Steven Newman.
Head of human resources Christine Canfield.
Marine vice-president Marc Michel.
Marine project development manager Brendan O'Connell.
Global business development manager Shane McMahon.
Global operations manager John Scott.
Wireless data chief Voyl Divljakovic.
Executive land navigation vice-president Jamie Macdonald.

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