Parkinson's disease forces Ryman chief executive to step down

Ryman's Simon Challies, seen here outside the Charles Fleming village in Waikanae, plans to step down in June.
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ

Ryman's Simon Challies, seen here outside the Charles Fleming village in Waikanae, plans to step down in June.

Ryman Healthcare's chief executive Simon Challies has surprised shareholders by announcing his resignation due to illness.

As he outlined the firm's annual results on Friday, Challies said he was stepping down because he had Parkinson's, a neurological disease he had been diagnosed with six years ago. 

​"It has given me a powerful insight into the challenges that many of our residents live with," he said.

It had changed the way he viewed operational matters such as managing multiple needs or accessing medical records, and simple things like using a computer. 

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​"(The disease) has given me a powerful insight into the challenges that many of our residents live with," Simon ...
DAVID WALKER/FAIRFAX NZ

​"(The disease) has given me a powerful insight into the challenges that many of our residents live with," Simon Challies says.

Challies has been with the company since 1999. ​However, he said the demands of his job, particularly the travel, were becoming greater as Ryman grew, so he was handing over to Gordon MacLeod, the company's chief financial officer.

​Chairman David Kerr paid tribute to Challies, saying he had been a "wonderful colleague" and eminently approachable.

Known widely as "Simon from Ryman," he had "never hesitated to walk the floor".

Ryman's Bert Sutcliffe Retirement Village, which opened in Birkenhead in March.
SUPPLIED

Ryman's Bert Sutcliffe Retirement Village, which opened in Birkenhead in March.

Financially Ryman announced another strong year, driven by a growing elderly population and strong resales of occupancy rights.

​Its existing villages were almost full, with occupancy rates at 97 per cent, and just 32 of the 6,000 units available.

The retirement village operator has enjoyed a healthy lift in net profit, up 17 per cent to $357 million for the year to March 31.

An artist's impression of Ryman's new Brandon Park village which will be built in Melbourne.
SUPPLIED

An artist's impression of Ryman's new Brandon Park village which will be built in Melbourne.

With asset values stripped out, underlying profit rose 13 per cent to $178 million, in line with its forecasts.

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​On another note, Kerr highlighted the need to invest more greatly in dementia and care facilities.

Cases were rising as people were living longer, and the number of dementia patients in New Zealand was expected to rise from 60,000 to 96,000 in the next decade.

During the year Ryman's total assets grew in value by 24 per cent to $4.9 billion, and its land bank was lifted by more than 30 per cent.

Four villages had opened, 13 were in the pipeline, and three villages had gained resource consents: the Tropicana in Auckland, another in Melbourne, and the Devonport village where mediation with neighbours has just been reached.

Collectively those three villages were worth another $1b.

​Close to completion were the Bob Scott and Possum Bourne villages in Petone and Pukekohe, which were already open.

Its Charles Upham village in Rangiora was complete with an extension planned, and its Bert Sutcliffe in Birkenhead was open with the last stages underway.

Nine new villages were in the design/consenting phase including two in Melbourne, one at Mt Eliza in Victoria, a village in Geelong, and five more in New Zealand. It plans to open five villages in Melbourne by 2020.

 - Stuff

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