Anne Gibson

Anne Gibson is the Property editor of the NZ Herald

Fletcher's new boss to oversee quake rebuild

Mark Adamson. Photo / Richard Robinson
Mark Adamson. Photo / Richard Robinson

The executive Fletcher Building picked up with its 2007 acquisition of Formica Group is taking the helm and big changes could be in store.

Mark Adamson, British born but currently based in Ohio, will take over from Jonathan Ling as chief executive on October 1.

Adamson is at present chief of Fletcher's laminates and panels division, which runs Formica Group and The Laminex Group.

As CEO, he will also be responsible for Fletcher EQR, project managing Christchurch earthquake repairs for the Earthquake Commission in a job Treasury says could cost $20 billion.

Of that, $13 billion could be spent on housing, $4 billion on commercial work and $3 billion on infrastructure.

Fletcher chairman Ralph Waters said Adamson had demonstrated constructive and innovative ways of extracting profits from Formica and Laminex and he believed he would show the same flair heading the entire business.

"He has done an outstanding job at Formica, undertaking difficult restructuring early in his tenure as global president of that business, and more recently successfully growing its earnings in developing markets particularly in Asia," Waters said.

"His leadership has enabled Formica to deliver ... operational performance and earnings improvements year after year despite very challenging conditions in many of its markets."

The board was impressed with his understanding of the opportunities and challenges across the whole of the group, and his strategic direction and vision.

"Over the next few years we will look to grow earnings regardless of economic conditions in each of our core markets, and Mark's ability to deliver continued operational performance improvements and to also identify and execute strategies for profitable growth make him ideally placed to lead the company over this next period," Waters said.

Adamson said the next three months would be a transition period where he would become more acquainted with all the businesses and spend some time in New Zealand and the United States.

Fletcher's shares closed up 1c yesterday at $6.30, well down on March's $6.99 and a 12-month high of $8.67.

Ling described the earthquake repair work as a very complex process, the rebuilding was much slower than initially thought but it was starting to gather momentum.

Waters paid tribute to Ling, saying top chief executives rarely served three to four years yet Ling would do six by the time he left on September 30.

Waters, also on the Woolworths and Fonterra boards, said he had become more used to chief executives changing lately.

Most of the people considered for the Fletcher job were based beyond Australia and NZ, he said, adding that the search included existing members of the executive team. However, a special contractual arrangement and financial incentive package has been struck to ensure Ling remains available if Fletcher needs to call on him after September 30, Waters said.

First NZ Capital analyst Kar Yue Yeo mentioned the number of Fletcher divisional chief executive changes lately, after Tim Richards was appointed to head building products and Mark Malpass and Graham Darlow to concrete and construction.

Emily Behncke, director/equities analyst at Deutsche Bank AG Australia & New Zealand Global Markets, asked Waters if any profit guidance changes were due.

Waters said if that was planned, an announcement would have already been made. The end of Fletcher's 2011-2012 financial year is only a fortnight away.

Questions were also asked about Ling's future and whether he might be in the race to head Fletcher competitor Boral, after the shock loss of its chief executive Mark Selway. But Waters indicated Ling would be placed under a contractual restraint period and Boral would have to be extremely patient if they wanted him.

LING'S SOUND LEADERSHIP

Australian Jonathan Ling, six years Fletcher chief executive, oversaw two massive purchases, Formica and Crane, and nearly doubled the size of the business.

He also shifted its focus, so that for the first time more business is generated from Australia than New Zealand.

"Just as significantly, he has successfully steered Fletcher Building through one of the worst economic downturns in recent times," said chairman Ralph Waters. "The company's sound financial position and the strength of its management team are fitting testament to Jonathan's leadership."

Ling is undecided about his future but at 58, he does not intend retiring.

"I'll take a few months off and try to decide what to do next," he said yesterday, adding that he had a lot of his family wealth tied up in a company whose share price has been falling but he was philosophical about this.

"You just can't worry about the things you can't control."

- NZ Herald

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