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Deloitte Top 200: Chairperson of the Year - Christopher Moller

By James Penn

Happy to make the hard decisions

Christopher Moller has demonstrated courageous decision-making, flexibility and a broad skillset through his range of chairmanships over the years.

Presently the Chair of NZ Transport Agency (NZTA), Meridian Energy, and SkyCity Entertainment Group, and a director of Westpac, he is admired for the breadth of his contributions.

The Deloitte Top 200 judges noted Moller's willingness to lead from the front in the roles that he holds -- an approach that earned him the QBE Insurance Chairperson of the Year award.

This is most notable in his time with SkyCity. Since becoming chair, Moller has overseen both a change of CEO and the international convention centre saga -- which created challenges and controversy for the company and board.

Throughout, he retained a responsible focus on the interests of shareholders, ultimately delivering an outcome that extended SkyCity's casino licence and is set to deliver a world-class convention facility.

Alongside this, the company currently has a large-scale redevelopment project under way for the Adelaide Casino.

Since becoming Chair of Meridian, Moller has led the company's initial public offering, to much success. Since listing in October 2013, the company has delivered total shareholder return of 118 per cent, and 33 per cent total shareholder return in 2016.

Meridian is in its fourth year of net profit growth now, and Moller's leadership and experience has helped to facilitate this impressive performance.

Moller is also the Chair of NZTA, which manages some $32.3 billion of net assets on behalf of the Government. Under his leadership, NZTA have been tasked with overseeing the Roads of National Significance and Accelerated Auckland Transport Programmes, among others.

The range of skills and experiences possessed by Moller are perhaps best exemplified through his involvement in sports governance alongside the above contributions to the business community. Most notably, he was the CEO of the New Zealand Rugby Union, including during the 2003 and 2007 Rugby World Cup.

He co-led (alongside Jock Hobbs) New Zealand's bid to host Rugby World Cup 2011 and was then a Director of that event, leaving behind a lasting legacy.

He later served as Chair of New Zealand Cricket, and was a Director of the Cricket World Cup 2015.

Moller's experience was called upon during turbulent times for Swimming New Zealand, as he was appointed to lead a review into the state of the sport's organisation. The judges noted this courage and willingness to make controversial but important recommendations as a reflection of his strengths as a chairperson.

New Zealand's largest company has also benefited from Moller's expertise and insight over the years. Having spent almost 15 years in the dairy industry, he resigned as Deputy CEO of Fonterra in 2002, but returned this year to head up an independent expert panel to review the co-operative's governance structure.

Once again, Moller was willing to make recommendations -- such as changes to the system of voting for directors -- that were inevitably going to be greeted with opposition from farmers, but which his experience informed him were important to the effective governance of the company.

The judges were also impressed with his mentorship of other young directors in the business community.

Finalist: Trevor Janes

Trevor Janes is recognised as a finalist in the Chairperson of the Year category primarily for his service to shareholders during the recent takeover of Abano Healthcare and the acumen he has displayed in a range of Government-appointed roles.

Like the winner of this award, he is commended for his courageousness when important but controversial decisions are confronted.

Trevor Janes.
Trevor Janes.

The chairman of Abano since 2011 and a director since 2005, Janes faced significant external pressures during the takeover of Abano Healthcare this year, and maintained poise and purpose throughout.

Observers commend him for upholding his core responsibility to act in the interests of shareholders throughout.

It is also noted that Janes is held in high standing by the Crown. He is Deputy Chair of ACC, contributing to the successful oversight that saw the board recognised as the winners of this year's Excellence in Governance award.

He was appointed Chair of Kiwirail in September of this year.

At the time, State Owned Enterprises Minister said: "He brings business experience, financial expertise and a collaborative leadership style to the position."

The judges considered that Janes is someone the Government, and others, turn to when times are tough. His temperament in difficult circumstances is also reflected in his membership of the NZ Markets Disciplinary Tribunal.

Janes is also the Chair of Certus Solutions, a Director of ProCare Health, a member of the NZ Post Network Access Committee, and a member of the International Development Advisory and Selection Panel for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Finalist: Rob Campbell

Rob Campbell is regarded as a chairman who provides effective strategic input and direction to the companies he chairs.

Those companies are Tourism Holdings and Summerset Group Holdings.

Rob Campbell.
Rob Campbell.

Campbell's contributions are widely regarded as setting the strategic direction managers can then implement, to the ultimate benefit of these companies. He is also a Director of Precinct Properties and Turners and Growers, and a director of a number of private companies in Australia and New Zealand. Like fellow finalist Janes, the judges noted Campbell's contributions in mentoring younger business leaders.

The chief executives at Tourism Holdings and Summerset -- Grant Webster and Julian Cook respectively -- are both relatively young as CEOs, and Campbell's guidance has been observed as an important contribution to their growth.

He calls it as he sees it and is unafraid to take a stand on controversial governance issues and is seen as a great promoter of women in the business community, appointing a number of women to his boards.

- NZ Herald

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