THE chief executive who steered Warrnambool Cheese and Butter (WCB) through last year’s spectacular bidding war has resigned after four years at the top.
WCB chief executive David Lord announced yesterday he would step down next year following a hectic tenure marked by a three-way bidding war for the Allansford-based processor, ultimately won by Canadian corporation Saputo.
It comes as WCB reported a net profit of $21.3 million after tax for the 2013-14 financial year in a report to the Australian Stock Exchange.
The figure represents an increase of nearly $14 million on the 2012-13 financial year, a 184 per cent jump from one reporting period to the next.
In the report, WCB described the 2013-14 period as an “outstanding year for the company” due to strong international demand coupled with a depreciating Australian dollar.
The dairy processor also claimed its strong profits were due to refurbishment work at the Allansford plant, alongside improved efficiencies.
Saputo chief executive Lino Saputo jnr was in Warrnambool yesterday for the announcement and to meet with WCB’s senior management. Mr Lord was contacted by The Standard yesterday but did not respond in time for deadline.
In an interview with ABC radio, Mr Lord denied he was pressured to resign by Saputo and claimed the company had full confidence in his management.
“No, absolutely not. The relationship between me and Saputo is one of absolute strength, and I’m very supportive of Saputo as new owner of the WCB assets,” he told the station.
“They would like me to stay on, but I’ve got other things I now need to do.”
Mr Lord spent 14 years with Parmalat Australia, including seven years as its managing director, before taking over the reins at WCB after predecessor John McLean retired in 2010.
The master of business administration (MBA) graduate moved from Brisbane to Warrnambool to accept the role four years ago.
Saputo made an unsuccessful bid for WCB in October 2009 but at that time settled for a 10 per cent stake in the company.
Mr Lord told The Standard in June 2010 that it was inevitable a company like WCB would attract the attention of larger dairy operators.
“I fully expect that there will be ongoing interest in the company from domestic and overseas sources,” Mr Lord said at the time.
Mr Lord also held the dual role as Saputo Australia president which worked in tandem with his WCB responsibilities.