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Weldon's anger concerned Clear Grain Exchange's former owners

By Sophie Boot

Mark Weldon argues he was misled in the acquisition of the grain exchange companies as CEO of NZX.
Mark Weldon argues he was misled in the acquisition of the grain exchange companies as CEO of NZX.

The former owners of the Clear Grain Exchange were concerned by former NZX boss Mark Weldon's angry behaviour and began recording calls with him six months after acquisition, the High Court in Wellington heard.

NZX bought Clear for A$7 million in October 2009, with two earn-outs of A$7 million tied to performance.

The stock market operator is suing Dominic Pym, Grant Thomas, and their companies Ralec Commodities and Ralec Interactive for between A$20.7 million and A$37.6 million, and say they provided "wildly inaccurate" forecasts prior to NZX buying the Australian grain trading platform in 2009.

Ralec's counterclaim of A$14 million, for both earn-outs plus bonuses says NZX and former chief Weldon under-funded the business which meant it couldn't meet the earn-out targets.

Dominic Pym resumed reading his brief yesterday, which he had started on Friday.

Pym said during a conversation with Thomas and Weldon on Feb. 4, 2010, Weldon lost his temper and swore at him because he used the word 'aligned'.

He didn't read out the words Weldon, describing them as "not worth repeating", and said he was "completely dumbfounded by Weldon's behaviour".

"I responded that I was merely inquiring about the alignment of the roles between Thomas and me in respect of the Clear businesses, and said I was referring to the contents of documents," Pym said. "Weldon continued to swear at me."

Four days after that conversation, Weldon removed Pym from having any involvement in the direction and strategy of the Clear tech team, he said.

Later that year, Pym said Clear had been in discussions with Graincorp as their system to manage their grain was delayed, and growers and buyers preferred using Clear.

The companies had discussed replacing the Graincorp front-end with the Clear front-end, meaning all transactions through the Graincorp warehouse would be handled by a Clear system.

"This was a compelling iteration of the existing Graincorp agreement where we only traded a small number of tonnes," Pym said. "This would mean every single trade of grain on the East Coast of Australia would be handled by the Clear system, even if it was traded off the Clear system."

The deal would involve Graincorp promoting the system, which meant Clear "wouldn't have to have the marketing and business development and all the things we were struggling to get started at NZX anyway," Pym said. He was very keen to get this up and running, and believed it could be beneficial, but Weldon rejected the deal, he said.

Pym said Weldon had a very strong view that Graincorp was trying to take advantage of the Clear technology team's prowess, but in his view working on the project would allow Clear to generate additional revenue and expand the breadth of the business.

"During the conversation Weldon lost his temper because Grant Thomas asked him 'is that your opinion, Mark?' Mark got very offended if you didn't agree with him, didn't do what he said or questioned his opinion. He got quite angry with Grant Thomas, I recall," Pym said.

During a conversation with Thomas and Weldon on February, Weldon lost his temper and swore at me because I used the word aligned.
Dominic Pym

Multiple transcripts of calls between Pym, Thomas, Weldon and other parties were referenced in the brief. Pym said that "by this stage" - around April 2010, six months after NZX acquired Clear - "we were recording most phone calls."

Pym said by the end of his time at NZX he felt that Mark Weldon was trying to "set him up" and the process around his performance review was flawed, as he was not given a performance review document dated December 2010 until two weeks after what turned out to be his final performance review in February 2011. Pym was fired by NZX in June 2011.

Pym was briefly cross-examined by NZX's lawyer David Cooper and is scheduled to be cross-examined for the remainder of the week.

- BusinessDesk

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