WARRNAMBOOL Cheese and Butter (WCB) chairman Frank Davis has retired from the position and as independent director.
Mr Davis has been WCB chairman since 2009 and an independent director since 2000.
He was replaced as chairman by his deputy Terry Richardson, of Deans Marsh, near Colac, in what the company said was part of an ongoing succession planning process.
Mr Davis’ position as a board director was filled by Neville Fielke, a former chief executive officer and managing director of H. J. Heinz.
Since 2007, Mr Fielke has worked in a corporate advisory role as a director of Falcon Corporate Advisory, which specialises in merger and acquisition transactions and growth consulting through Growth Solutions Group.
Mr Davis took on the role of chairman in May 2009 after his predecessor David Karpin resigned following a revolt by suppliers over a massive cut in WCB’s farmgate milk price.
During his term, WCB faced an unsuccessful takeover bid by Australia’s biggest dairy co-operative Murray Goulburn.
Murray Goulburn (MG) has since lifted its stake in WCB to more than 16 per cent but has said it has no plans to launch another takeover bid.
Mr Richardson said the prospect of further MG takeover bids did not dominate WCB’s thinking. It was focused on offering a competitive milk price and a fair return to shareholders.
On the company’s initiatives, Mr Richardson said it would seek to produce more “customer-specific products”.
Mr Richardson, who has a dairy farm at Deans Marsh, said the past year had been one of the toughest he could recall and improving the farmgate price offered to WCB milk suppliers was a “top priority” .
He said suppliers’ confidence in the industry needed to be lifted and WCB’s announcement yesterday of a step up in its farmgate price, made ahead of its scheduled October price review, was part of its effort.
WCB said Mr Davis had made an outstanding contribution to the company’s success and stability.
Mr Richardson said Mr Davis left a great legacy at WCB of “a robust, strategic business model and a passionate and performance-driven culture”.
Mr Richardson joined the board in 2007 as a supplier director and was appointed deputy chairman in May 2009.
A dairy farmer for 35 years, Mr Richardson has extensive board experience, serving with Kiwi Co-operative Dairies for seven years.
Mr Richardson said the new board director, Mr Fielke, brought wide-ranging skills and expertise in sales and marketing, business development and strategic alliances.