Christopher Adams

The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Expat Kiwi takes on tough job at Wgtn Drive

Jetblack's Stephen Hunt with a fibreglass mock-up of the vehicle he hopes will break the land speed record. Photo / Greg Bowker
Jetblack's Stephen Hunt with a fibreglass mock-up of the vehicle he hopes will break the land speed record. Photo / Greg Bowker

An expat Kiwi has landed one of the toughest jobs in New Zealand manufacturing - running Wellington Drive Technologies, the listed motor-maker that a decade after listing on the NZX has failed to turn a profit.

The Albany-based company says Greg Allen will become its new chief executive next month, replacing the long-serving Ross Green, who has headed the firm since 1999.

Allen is vice-president and general manager, industrial and green technology, for Toronto-based tech firm Celestica Corporation.

Wellington said he would remain based in North America after taking up his new role in order to be close to the firm's main markets.

New York-listed Celestica reported adjusted net earnings of US$196 million ($244 million) on revenue of US$6.5 billion ($8 billion), last year.

In August Wellington reported a $6.9 million loss for the six months to June, despite seeing a 52 per cent rise in sales volume for its motors, which are used in commercial refrigeration and ventilation and made in Asia.

The company has collected more than $24 million from shareholders in three capital raisings since late 2009.

Wellington shares jumped by more than 11 per cent after the chief executive announcement yesterday, and closed up 2c at 20c last night.

The company said Allen would participate in Wellington's partly paid share scheme, with an initial issue of shares equal to 2 per cent of the current listed share capital of the firm.

Wellington has a market capitalisation of $13.5 million.

Chairman Tony Nowell said the company had conducted an international search for a chief executive with the combination of commercial, technological and supply-chain capability required to drive the firm into profit.

"Greg Allen brings more than 20 years of international experience in high-technology engineering, manufacturing and sales, operating and general managing in a global multinational environment, including a period as president of a North American publicly listed entity," Nowell said.

Before joining Celestica Allen held engineering and project management roles in Britain with Solectron, Test Solutions and Telecontrol Communications, Wellington said.

He was married with two young children and held an MBA from Edinburgh's Napier University.

Last year Green told the Business Herald the most stressful aspect of running Wellington was the ever-present need for commercial success.

"My cardiovascular fitness is pretty good," he said at that time. "If it wasn't, this wouldn't be the sort of job to be dealing with."

But in June he said health issues - particularly the side effects of medication for rheumatoid arthritis - meant he would step down from the top job when a replacement was found.

Green will remain with Wellington in a support and advisory role.

- NZ Herald

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