Fonterra chairman John Wilson announced on Friday morning he was standing down from his position after suffering a recent health scare.
He will remain a Fonterra director until the co-operative’s annual meeting in November, when he will retire from the board.
He has been chairman of the company since 2012 and was first appointed to the board in 2003.
Fonterra’s board selected John Monaghan, who has been on the board since 2008, as the co-operative’s new chairman.
Wilson’s departure comes after Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings announced he would step down from his role later this year.
The Fonterra boss, originally from the Netherlands, has been at the helm since 2011 and is the highest paid executive in New Zealand pocketing an $8 million a year salary.
The chief executive before him was Andrew Ferrier, who moved to New Zealand from Canada.
Regional Economic Development Minister Shane is now calling for Fonterra’s new chairman to ensure the next Fonterra chief executive is a New Zealander.
“Serve us up preferably a Kiwi who comes around with a pair of dehorners and uses them liberally to slash the corporate culture of Fonterra.”
A Fonterra spokesman said none of the board including the new chairman were available to comment.
Jones said he wished Wilson a speedy recovery.
Jones had called for Wilson to stand down last month.
“I’m worried about the absolute absence of accountability for the enormous amounts of dough that the current Fonterra chairman has presided over,” Jones told media in June.
His comments were supported by Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters, who said Jones’ didn’t need to apologise for his comments as they were “seriously accurate”.
Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor would not comment other than sending a tweet wishing Wilson the best.
Fonterra’s share price on the NZX was unchanged in early morning trading.
All the best to John Wilson for a fast recovery. Thanks for all the hard work on behalf of farmers.
— Damien O’Connor (@DamienOConnorMP) 26 de julio de 2018
Wilson has been under fire after the dairy co-operative wrote down more than $400 million from its troubled China investment, Beingmate, earlier this year recording a half-year loss of $348m.
It was also ordered to pay out $183m to global infant formula maker Danone for the 2012 botulism scare.
But former Fonterra director Ian Farelly called Wilson a “champion bloke and a great director”.
Fonterra was a better co-operative for having Wilson on the board, he said.
“He put Fonterra 100 per cent first and if he’s stepping down for health reasons, that’s bloody sad.”
Monaghan as the number one successor for replacing Wilson, he said.
“He’s totally well equipped, definitely the best guy and he’ll do a great job.”
Former Agriculture Minister National MP Nathan Guy said he had worked closely with Wilson.
Wilson showed good leadership through a number of crisis the co-operative had faced such as the 2012 botulism scare, the 1080 contamination threat in 2014 and a dairy price slump that occurred around the same time.
Wilson helped Fonterra improve its internal systems to be more resilient and stood by farmers when times were tough, Guy said.
“He was in touch with the hardship that the farmers were feeling,” Guy said.
Monaghan had strong international connections, which would serve Fonterra well, Guy said.
Monaghan grew up on a dairy farm and has current farming interests in the Wairarapa and Otago.
He has been closely involved in the process to appoint a new chief executive to Fonterra.
Federated Farmers hailed Wilson’s tenure atop New Zealand biggest company.
“John Wilson can leave feeling proud of the role he’s played in guiding the co-op in a time of volatile international markets and a host of local challenges,” Federated Farmers dairy chair Chris Lewis said.
Fonterra Shareholder’s Council chairman Duncan Coull said in stepping down, Wilson was doing what was right for himself, his family and the co-op.
“In my short time at the co-operative, I don’t know of anyone that’s given so much of their own time as John has for such a long period,” Coull said.
By: Gerald Piddock and John Anthony