Nothing like announcing a high-profile board resignation on a Friday to raise suspicions among naturally sceptical types. So beyond the obvious, what might be behind Coles Myer CEO John Fletcher quitting as a Telstra director?

The Oz hints at half of it – problems with the denuded Telstra board itself. But the other half might well be tougher times facing Coles Myer that will require all the CEO’s concentration.

Once Myer is flogged off, the Coles performance with Woolworths will be very plain to see – and it’s not looking flattering. Woolworths has the jump in liquor and is extending it while undergoing another surge in the groceries business. Roger Corbett is chasing a good result to go out on and will get it one way or the other.

The state of the Telstra board, though, is worthy of study. At a time of enormous uncertainty and change with, shall we say, a forceful new management team and a single-minded chairman, Telstra has just five non-executive directors and seems to be having a lot of trouble finding anyone any good to join.

As The Oz‘s Sainsbury and Jimenez put it:

Telstra has spent the past 14 months searching for fresh faces for its depleted boardroom but has come up empty-handed.

“The process for reviewing candidates includes giving attention to new needs owing to continuing uncertainty around key regulatory decisions, the development of Telstra’s new strategy, and the potential full privatisation of Telstra,” Mr McGauchie said.

Which sounds a lot like chairmanly waffle. This might be closer to the truth of it:

One source close to the Telstra board said: “It’s not really a normal company right now. It’s a big ask to get new directors on board when they will have to sign off on a prospectus.”

The Australian understands that the search for new directors, which is the hands of executive search firm Spencer Stewart, is concentrating on candidates with international telecommunications and deep finance experience.

Yes, it would be nice to have a non-executive director or even two with the experience and knowledge to deal with Trujillo, but there is a shortage of such people. Most of the CVs with that sort of experience belong to people who were running things in the dot.com bubble – and they generally have more to be embarrassed about than the previous Telstra management McGauchie sacked. Ask Sol.

Peter Fray

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