Big year for changing of the guard

New leaders have taken the reins at corporate heavyweights, writes Jamie Gray.

At Auckland International Airport, Adrian Littlewood was appointed chief executive in November. Photo / Supplied
At Auckland International Airport, Adrian Littlewood was appointed chief executive in November. Photo / Supplied

The face of New Zealand business changed over 2012 with a series of senior appointments made to some of the country's top jobs.

These include former World Bank managing director Graeme Wheeler who took over from Reserve Bank governor Alan Bollard in September.

Wheeler is considered more "hawkish" than his predecessor, but commentators say it's still early days.

Among the corporates, Jonathan Ling stepped down as chief executive of New Zealand's biggest listed company, Fletcher Building. He was replaced by Mark Adamson, a Briton, who came into the Fletcher fold through its US unit, Formica.

Ling, who resigned on September 30, returned to Australia. In a short space of time, Adamson has introduced big changes to top management.

Sir Henry van der Heyden stepped down as chairman of Fonterra. Van der Heyden has overseen profound changes in the New Zealand dairy sector, starting with the formation of Fonterra in 2001.

He has been a driving force in the tortuous process of getting the Trading Among Farmers share trading scheme up and running. Waikato farmer John Wilson took over as chairman on December 17.

Mark Ashcroft, a partner at corporate executive search company SEQEL, said the number of top jobs rolling over at the same time was purely coincidental.

"The reality is that out there in corporate land there are probably only 20 or 30 really significant chief executive roles in New Zealand," Ashcroft said.

"In some years it might be that four or five of them change and sometimes a few of them fall out at the same time."

When market conditions are tough for a sustained period, it can sometimes drive changes in leadership "because people think that by changing the leadership of a business that it will fundamentally improve the performance of the business".

The last three years have been challenging for many businesses," Ashcroft said.

"For many companies, they are not actually going under but they are not doing it easy either. I think in some cases leaders do decide to opt out."

In March, Westpac appointed Peter Clare as its next New Zealand chief executive, replacing George Frazis, who went on to become chief executive of the Westpac subsidiary, St George Banking Group.

Clare has held senior management positions in St George, Westpac and Commonwealth Bank of Australia, with duties covering strategy, merger programmes, operations and performance improvement.

At Auckland International Airport, Adrian Littlewood was appointed chief executive in November. He replaced Simon Moutter, who was made chief executive of Telecom in May. Moutter was chief operating officer of the telco from 1999 to 2008.

Telecom appointed Tim Miles as chief executive of its information communications and technology (ICT) unit, Gen-i. Miles started his ICT career in New Zealand with IBM, where he was responsible for public sector customers.

In 2001, Miles joined the Vodafone group and he was chief executive of Vodafone NZ for almost four years. He succeeds Chris Quin, who took over as chief executive of Telecom Retail last October.

At the NZX, Singapore-based New Zealander Tim Bennett replaced Mark Weldon as chief executive in May.

Fund managers say he has slotted in well. Bennett was previously a partner at international consultancy firm Oliver Wyman. Weldon, after 10 years in the job, headed south to grow grapes.

Rob Fyfe, who has been chief executive of Air New Zealand since 2005, announced he would step down.

Christopher Luxon was appointed chief executive designate in June 2012, having previously served as group general manager international in May 2011. Adam Feeley stepped down as head of the Serious Fraud Office to take a job as chief executive of Lakes District Council in Queenstown. A replacement has yet to be announced.

Refining NZ announced Sjoerd Post would succeed Ken Rivers as chief executive. Tony Radford, a founding director of New Zealand Oil and Gas in 1981, resigned as chairman in October. He was replaced by Peter Griffiths, who joined the board in 2009.

- APNZ

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