Leading kiwifruit marketer Zespri has announced the resignation of Tony Nowell, chief executive officer of Zespri Group Ltd, effective from 30 June 2008.
The announcement was made by group chairman Craig Greenlees, who also revealed that Lain Jager, Zespri’s supply chain general manager, will take over as acting CEO from 1 July.
Mr Nowell apparently wishes to focus more widely on the development of the broader New Zealand food industry, the country’s growing international trade opportunities and personal community interests.
"Zespri has achieved a decade of extraordinary growth in revenues and returns since 1998 thanks to its great team, its superb product and its outstanding brand, together with its single point of entry marketing system," he said in a statement.
"In the last 15 months, I have enjoyed my role in putting in place the structural and personnel changes within the company that will position it well to replicate that record of success in the decade ahead.
"The skilled and capable senior management team now in place will continue to execute the company’s clear strategic direction and achieve the challenging objectives its board and growers/shareholders have set," he added.
Mr Greenlees thanked Mr Nowell for his service over the last 15 months and said the Board believed he had achieved important changes within the business over that time.
He said an extensive search for a new CEO would begin immediately and the Board looked forward to working with Mr Jager in his new role as acting CEO.
Mr Jager said it was a privilege for anyone to be part of the Zespri community as he had been for 10 years: "I feel an enormous responsibility to build on the relationships from grower to consumer that are at the heart of the Zespri business," he said.
Mr Jager also revealed he had agreed three priorities as acting CEO: to deliver returns to growers in 2008/09 of at least 65 cents above last year’s average per-tray return; to further develop the executive and management capability of the Zespri team; and to secure tangible gains by truly integrating the supply chain from cool-store to customer including the onshore industry in New Zealand.
"These priorities are challenging in the context of low returns last season and increasing costs through the value chain but they are essential to deliver on the strategic plan against which the entire ZESPRI team is accountable to our growers and shareholders,”"he said.