Zespri directors hold onto seats

ANDREA FOX
Last updated 13:35 25/07/2013

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Zespri's grower-suppliers might be uneasy about how the blue-chip kiwifruit marketer came to be convicted of smuggling in China, but not enough to dump two directors when they had the chance.

The Zespri board remains after yesterday's annual meeting voted on two challenges to sitting directors up for re-election, with chairman Peter McBride and vice-chairman Bruce Cameron retaining their seats.

However, a spirited assault on the standard of accountability among Zespri's leaders by Cameron challenger Tom Wilson, a former KPMG partner and former chief executive of kiwifruit company Satara, seems to have got some traction.

Cameron received 72.73 per cent of the votes, compared with McBride's 87.56 per cent win over challenger Robert Knyvett.

Wilson, an experienced businessman and company director, said he had stood for election after pressure by grower supporters.

In the run-up to yesterday's meeting in Tauranga, he said Zespri's handling of its conviction for smuggling in China "is not bloody good enough".

Directors and management must answer to growers for a $6 million slump in this year's profit to pay the fines and associated fall in the share value, he said.

He accused Zespri leaders of trying to whitewash the conviction.

For Zespri growers, the conviction and subsequent loss of an appeal in China was a double blow after the ravages of the virulent Psa disease in the past two years.

The disease is now in 75 per cent of the country's orchards and has resulted in a steep fall in harvests of the previously lucrative gold fruit export crops.

Outgoing Fonterra chief financial officer Jonathan Mason received a 99.31 per cent vote of support for taking his place on the Zespri board. 

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- Waikato

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