The Foster’s board has today forced the departure of CEO Trevor O’Hoy and flagged a $600 million write-down on its struggling wine business.
As usual, the market loves an executive purge and “strategic review” as Foster’s shares soared 3.5% in a tumbling market today, catapulting O’Hoy high up this sacked market movers list.
CEOs of ASX50 companies don’t get flicked too often and with IAG’s Michael Hawker walking out late last month we’ve now lost two in two weeks.
Hawker gave the impression it was his own decision driven by the loss of confidence of key shareholders over the QBE bid rejection, while the O’Hoy departure was clearly initiated by the board which was looking for a fall guy for its troubled wine business. Alan Kohler has summed up the wine problems nicely on Business Spectator.
Melbourne boards have long allowed embattled CEOs to stay too long so this is a big moment because O’Hoy has led Foster’s since March 2004 and spent 33 years with the company.
With the likes of Roger Corbett, Allan Moss and David Murray now retired as CEOs, this only leaves QBE’s Frank O’Halloran and Leighton’s Wal King as long-serving professional CEOs who have spent more than 30 years with their companies.
Given that IAG came a cropper in the UK car insurance market and Foster’s has blown billions going big into US wine, Australian investors are going to become even more risk-averse about backing international expansion.
Look no further than ABC Learning boss Eddie Groves who today grabbed the title of “most sackable CEO” after shares in the childcare giant were suspended pending a reported bargain basement share placement.
This really should signal the end of the line for Eddie who has already destroyed more than $2 billion in equity becoming the world’s biggest childcare company.
MFS boss Michael King got the boot for springing a surprise $500 million capital raising on the market and now Eddie is doing the same at prices down near $1.20. The Singapore Government, Eddie’s largest shareholders, must be furious given that it spent $403 million buying a 12% stake at $7.30 a share less than 12 months ago.
If IAG had stuck with its Australasian general insurance business, Eddie Groves kept milking the highly subsidised Australian childcare system and Trevor O’Hoy focused on his VB bonanza, many billions of dollars would have been saved.
But that doesn’t mean Australian companies shouldn’t expand offshore. The likes of Billabong, Rinker, CSL, Computershare, QBE, Macquarie, Cochlear, Westfield, Worley-Parsons and News Corp have all made a fortune taking on the world.
*Watch this Mayne Report video interview with industry funds boss Gary Weaven.