George Gould departure as PGW head flagged

PGG Wrightson managing director George Gould will stand down on August 31, having stepped into the role at a time when the company was going through a rocky period.

Former managing director Tim Miles made a surprise exit from the rural services company in 2010 at a period of underperformance.

Following his exit, an ex gratia payment of $3 million by PGG Wrightson to Miles was revealed, raising the ire of the Shareholders Association.

Gould then came on board as managing director in early 2011, having already served as a director of the board.

PGG Wrightson chairman Sir John Anderson acknowledged the contribution Gould had made to PGG Wrightson since agreeing to be managing director in February 2011.

Anderson said Gould had performed his task admirably and whilse the board would be sorry to see him leave, his tenure was for a fixed and relatively short period and for a particular purpose.

"A non-executive director at the time, with a successful track record in rural servicing, particularly as a former managing director of Pyne Gould Guinness Limited, George agreed to be managing director of PGG Wrightson to help stabilise the company as it re-focussed on its core business," Anderson said in a statement.

The Christchurch-based company's capital value was underpinned when China's Agria Corp took a cornerstone stake in the company as part of a $250m recapitalisation. Agria first announced it wanted a stake in PGG Wrightson in 2009 and now owns just over 50 per cent.

The value of the company has been under pressure for a period since the departure of Miles, said to have resigned after being confronted by a board unhappy with his performance.

Another to leave from that period was Craig Norgate, who as chairman wanted to drive more consolidation in the company.

One problem dating back to 2008 was PGG Wrightson's plan to buy 50 per cent of meat processing company Silver Fern Farms. That broke down after it failed to settle the first part of the $220m deal.

The shares had been under pressure in recent years, but during early 2013 had crept up to around 48c.
But since then they have gone back to a downward trend. This afternoon the shares were down 2 cents, or 6.25 per cent, at 30 cents.

According to the 2012 annual report, Gould received a total remuneration package of $1.5m. He did not receive director's fees; rather his remuneration was payment for managing director services.

When The Press asked Gould earlier this year if he had any plans to leave, Gould gave no indication he was intending to step down.

He had also indicated he wanted to get the company back to core basics, rather than go down an acquisition trail that had been part of the previous management's strategy.

Gould said today that he was pleased to have been able to help PGG Wrightson, particularly regarding the rural servicing business with which he had a long standing affinity.

Anderson said a selection process is proceeding to determine Gould's successor.

The Press