Alliance boss announces resignation

TIM CRONSHAW
Last updated 17:22 25/07/2014
Southland Times photo
NICOLE GOURLEY/Fairfax NZ
RESIGNATION: Grant Cuff has announced his resignation as Alliance Group chief executive.

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Alliance Group chief executive Grant Cuff thought the brightening outlook for red meat has made it the right time to step down from leading the the world's largest processor and exporter of sheepmeat.

This might take some of the pressure off his successor, and ending his term after nearly 10 years had a good ring to it, he said.

Cuff announced to staff this morning he would be leaving the Invercargill-based co-operative owned by about 5000 farmer shareholders, and said he had put little thought to his next career step. He will step down at Alliance's December annual meeting.

"When I started in 2005 I gave myself 10 years - that was an expectation I had - and I'm going into my 10th year in a couple of months. I think it's about the right time for the company and everyone involved.

"The current time feels right for me and the year is better, the balance sheet is strong and the market is not as bad a position with (good) supply and demand."

Cuff said he was confident the co-operative's livestock quality, plants and services were in good shape for the next chief executive to take over.

The lower dairy payout and better red meat prospects might also help ease his successor into the job, he said.

"It gives them as good a start as they can get. I don't know if the pressure is ever off - it's just a better balance."

Cuff plans to take some time off for a break after his departure in December before making his next career move and has ruled out retirement.

Chairman Murray Taggart said Cuff had led the company through major change and was leaving it in a sound position when prices and demand for red meat were strengthening.

He said Cuff was a well-respected, unassuming leader with a thorough understanding of the company and the industry and excellent leadership and analytical skills.

"Under Grant's leadership, Alliance Group has been at the forefront of emerging market development including China, Brazil and India. China is now the company's largest export market for red meat, and its emergence has played a significant part in improving returns for the co-operative's suppliers."

Taggart said Cuff had steered the company through some challenging times and the company had relied on his knowledge, experience and steady hand.

"The impact of the global financial crisis, land use change and a challenging New Zealand dollar have combined to put pressure on our industry.

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"Ongoing changes in customer demands, regulatory requirements and livestock supply have required continual restructuring including buying, reconfiguring and sadly closing plants. Grant's sound leadership and commitment has helped the company overcome these challenges and retain its position as the country's largest exporter of sheepmeat."

During his leadership, Alliance has has developed new meat products targeting the premium end of the market.

Cuff has been in the meat industry for 33 years including roles with Southland Frozen Meat, Challenge Meats, Waitaki International and Alliance.

During his 24-year tenure with Alliance, Cuff has progressed up the executive ladder.

The chartered accountant is also a director of The Lamb Companies group (North America) and chairman of New Zealand Farmers (London), the company's UK marketing arm. 

Cuff said the decision to step down was not easy, but he was confident the company had a great future with an experienced management team in place and improving prospects in world markets.

"For me, it is the team of people that is so important, not any one individual."

The board will begin the search for a replacement immediately.

- Stuff

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