Ross Turnbull’s wining and dining days are over at the NRMA, following the decision by fellow directors to replace him as President. See how it happened here:

Subscriber email – 24 January

At last, the NRMA board has finally done the right thing and sacked big drinking, big spending President Ross Turnbull. The brief statement released this morning read as follows:

The NRMA Motoring & Services Board will appoint a new President on Thursday 27 January.

The vacancy follows a unanimous decision by all other directors at a meeting of the Board on Friday 21 January to replace Mr Ross Turnbull as President.

The decision was taken with due regard to the future of the NRMA and a lack of confidence in Mr Turnbull by the NRMA Board over his failure to follow agreed procedures over several months.

Current director Mr Alan Evans will act as interim Board Chairman until a new President is chosen from current directors this week.

The Board has shown enormous loyalty and generosity of spirit towards Mr Turnbull who has served as a director and President since October 2002.

Over the past 18 months the NRMA Board has taken a strategic decision to strengthen its corporate governance procedures at Board level, lift the organisation’s financial performance and increase workplace efficiency.

NRMA’s half yearly results will be announced on Friday 28 January.

Turnbull, famous for his press briefings, has hit back with a two paragraph statement saying Thursday’s board meeting is the appropriate forum to discuss this issue and pre-empting Friday’s results by saying he inherited an organisation in October 2002 losing $1 million a week and now it is making $1 million a week.

Crikey spoke to ABC morning host Sally Loane at 9.10am today and we put a few key points out into the public domain. Firstly, former John Dawkins chief of staff and pharmaceutical industry lobbyist Alan Evans was the kingmaker on the board who rounded up the numbers to roll Turnbull, a man who apparently talks on the phone to his best mate Alan Jones every other day.

Evans, a veteran of political wheeling and dealing, has been named interim President and is keen to take the top job but is expected to face competition from one or possibly two other directors. Geoff Toovey and Graham Blight are being mentioned in dispatches.

Crikey hears that the issue which finished Turnbull off was an alleged breach of the process adopted to find a new board member. Robert Webster from search firm Korn Ferry was appointed to find a new director and Turnbull apparently started unacceptably pushing a mate, someone who also had some personal baggage. When the board was cut from 14 to 9 in December 2003, it became dominated by conservative and mainly Catholic men who were said to be concerned by this personal baggage, even though it apparently didn’t stack up.

NRMA CEO Tony Stuart, the former head of Sydney Airport, was said to be at loggerheads with Turnbull and was across the personal baggage issues of his candidate, although it remains unclear if he knew Evans would lead the vote of no confidence at Friday’s board meeting.

Turnbull has only been removed as President and is vowing to attend this Thursday’s meeting to appoint a new President. He can sit on the board until his term expires later this year but he will lose all the perks and pay of the Presidency, which he enjoyed fully over the past three years.

However, don’t be surprised if Turnbull runs a new slate of candidates at the forthcoming elections. The lack of incumbency and being dumped by many of his old supporters will make it difficult, but apparently two of the nine directors weren’t at Friday’s meeting so it wasn’t genuinely unanimous.

Check out the most recent NRMA annual report here. Also, have a look at this entertaining list of the 65 directors NRMA had over a decade.

Crikey has been at the cutting edge of this NRMA saga over the years and this piece last year over the way NRMA patrolmen were treated was a classic example of the insiders using Crikey to get their message across. It led to these two feisty responses.

We also regard this spray by Latham adviser and former NRMA deputy president Alex Sanchez as an absolute classic about what is clearly Australia’s most dysfunctional institution.

The end of Turnbull will hopefully be the first step towards the NRMA becoming a boring and reliable organisation again. Next Friday’s results should show further improvement on the $800,000 profit in 2003-04, largely due to booming investment markets.

The share price of IAG, the old NRMA Insurance, has soared from $5 to $6.40 since June 30 was year and that helps the NRMA mutual because it retains a stake of more than 5 per cent. When combined with booming revenues after steep fee increases at the NRMA and cost cutting driven by Tony Stuart, the organisation’s finance are clearly healthy once again.

Sadly, Ross Turnbull won’t be able to claim it for himself, although he is trying.

Peter Fray

72 hours only. 50% off a year of Crikey and The Atlantic.

Our two-for-one offer with The Atlantic was so popular we decided to bring it back.

But only for 72 hours.

Use the promo code ATLANTIC2020 and you’ll get 50% off a year of Crikey (usually $199) and a year of digital access to The Atlantic (usually $70). That’s BOTH for just $129.

Hurry. Ends midnight this Thursday.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

Claim Now