Push to get Monaghan on Alliance board continues

TIM CRONSHAW
Last updated 12:18 31/01/2014
John Monaghan.
Fairfax NZ
CALL RENEWED: Alliance shareholders are continuing to push their board for the appointment of John Monaghan as an independent director.

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Supporters of the Meat Industry Excellence (MIE) reform group say the board of meat processor Alliance Group needs to "step up and do the right thing" by appointing John Monaghan as an independent director.

Alliance rejected the nomination of Monaghan, a Fonterra director, as a supplier representative for the board elections last year because he failed to meet the criteria in the company's constitution. The criteria requires nominees to have an interest in 5000 or more Alliance Group shares.

Undeterred, shareholders supporting MIE advanced a resolution for him to replace retiring independent director Owen Poole.

Alliance shareholders voted in favour of the non-binding special resolution at the co-operative's annual meeting in Dannevirke last month, but his place at the boardroom table still requires the backing of the board.

The board has yet to indicate its position, but it is understood to be looking for an independent director who has been a chief executive with Asian experience. Whether it chooses to pursue this over the wishes of the shareholders supporting Monaghan remains to be seen.

MIE chairman John McCarthy said the resolution for Monaghan's appointment was passed by a million-vote majority and needed to be honoured by the Alliance board.

He said the big voter turnout by shareholders had been downplayed, but showed the level of support for Monaghan, and appointing him would be consistent with co-operative principles even though the resolution was non-binding.

"I've had a lot of inquiries from Alliance shareholders about what is happening so far, and we are hopeful that Alliance is prepared to follow the wishes of its members.

"If the board chooses to ignore such a clear mandate from farmers, it will do so at its peril."

McCarthy said the groundswell of feeling among shareholders for change was overwhelming.

Despite some groups pointing to better red meat prices, profitability was still an issue, he said. The results of ewe fairs and ram sales showed that cracks were starting to appear. Unhappy farmers were looking at dairying and other land uses.

MIE is pushing for industry consolidation and urging farmers to commit their stock to co- operative-owned companies to improve their own wellbeing.

"I think this 'last man standing' approach has held us back for decades.

"I have been in this industry for 30 years, and I don't think [we need] another talkfest," McCarthy said.

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"That's why we are targeting the co-operatives."

The Alliance board can appoint up to four independent directors.

McCarthy said Monaghan's appointment could be made without cutting across other plans the board might have.

Those backing Monaghan's appointment include former Fonterra chairman Henry van der Heyden. Last month he said boards needed qualified people with capabilities, and Monaghan did not get on the Fonterra board without a strong understanding of the global marketplace, co- operatives, and business models and management.

McCarthy said Alliance's rejection of Monaghan as a supplier director happened despite his holdings in Ngapara Farms, a major Alliance supplier.

Monaghan is understood to have taken legal advice indicating that he was within his rights to be nominated as a supplier director.

Alliance chairman Murray Taggart was unable to be contacted for comment.

- The Press

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