Federated Farmers: Fonterra's new chairman elect

By Felicity Wolfe

Federated Farmers Dairy chair Willy Leferink is looking forward to starting with Waikato farmer John Wilson who was named as Fonterra Cooperative Group's chairman-elect last month.

Wilson will take over from retiring Fonterra chairman Sir Henry van der Heyden who will step down from the role in December.

"John may be stepping into big shoes, but he is ably equipped to do so," Leferink says.

"He is an immensely intelligent and capable farmer with that all-important institutional knowledge of where Fonterra has come from."

Since Wilson joined Fonterra's board in 2003, Fonterra has gone from generating $11.8 billion in revenue to around $20b. His family farm is in Te Awamutu and he also manages a dairy business in South Canterbury. Wilson is also the chairman of South Auckland Independent Testing Society and a director of Turners & Growers.

Wilson will be in charge of taking the world's fourth largest dairy company forward in its second decade of life.

This includes delivering to shareholders and unit holders, everything promised from Trading Among Farmers (TAF) and the strategy refresh.

"As van der Heyden knows, being the chairman of Fonterra means being in the spotlight locally and internationally."

However, Leferink has no doubts around Wilson's ability to handle the pressure.

With the cooperative working to tidy up other aspects of its operation, such as implementing the TAF scheme, Leferink strongly hopes Wilson will put in place a clear succession pathway by creating a deputy chair.

"A lack of board succession is a strategic weakness given, Fonterra is a team made up of farmers, staff, customers and suppliers," Leferink says.

"The immediate priority for John, during the transition phase, is to put to bed Fonterra's constitution in November so the cooperative can move forward.

Leferink says the "Federation recognises the urgent need to get this sorted as it is 010's 'B' constitution currently remains a potential threat to the continued stability of the cooperative. "The Federated Farmers Dairy executive looks forward to meeting John soon, in his chairman-elect capacity," he concluded.

- Hamilton News

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