Barratt to retire from Sanford

RICHARD MEADOWS
Last updated 05:00 31/01/2013
NO REGRETS: Sanford managing director Eric Barratt.
NO REGRETS: Sanford managing director Eric Barratt.

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Sanford managing director Eric Barratt, who has announced he will retire from listed fishing company this year, says he has had "a good innings" with no regrets during his 15 years at the helm.

Barratt's decision to announce he would step down was a surprise conclusion to the company's annual meeting, held in Auckland yesterday.

After 35 years in the fishing industry, Barratt said he had "absolutely nothing planned" beyond helping smooth the leadership transition.

He had drawn a line in the sand and would stay on no later than December 31, either in his current role or as a consultant.

Sanford chairman Jeff Todd paid tribute to Barratt's leadership over the years, and was "delighted" that he had agreed to help the board with its international search for his replacement.

In recent years, Barratt has been tasked with navigating the company through choppy waters.

Sanford was fined US$1.9 million (NZ$2.27m) for dumping oil waste at sea in July 2011.

The detainment of the tuna boat involved in the incident, the San Nikunau, also bit heavily into the annual tuna catch during a time of record high prices.

Barratt told yesterday's meeting it was time to move on and make sure the situation never happened again.

He told BusinessDay that he had no regrets about any of his own decisions. "There's always some things that impact on you."

Two Sanford fishermen died in 2008 when their boat was caught in a storm in the Bay of Plenty.

"Those are the sort of things that touch your heart, and you wish they hadn't occurred."

Barratt was proud of leading the company to profitability through two financial crises and exchange rate fluctuations, while returning a dividend to shareholders.

Sanford's annual dividend payouts had increased from 11c a share to 23c a share under his management, he said.

Veteran Sanford director David Anderson also stepped down at yesterday's meeting, which was the 108th in the company's history.

Anderson told the audience he had attended half of those meetings - for 54 years in a row.

"I regret I was not able to attend the first 54," he joked.

He observed that the industry had evolved over his lifetime to the point where modern fishermen were now highly trained and extremely professional.

"In the early years we formed the opinion that the best fishermen were the ones with three wives and three mortgages - they had to go to sea to earn money!"

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National Party president Peter Goodfellow, whose family are core Sanford shareholders, was re-elected as a director, as was Paul Norling as an independent director.

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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