Former Ridley Corporation chairman and troubled companies specialist, John Spark, is to take over as chairman of Australia’s biggest milk processor, Murray Goulburn (MG), next week.
Mr Spark, an accountant and former beef cattle producer, will replace Philip Tracy who announced his pending retirement last year initiating a search for a new chairman and board director of the farmer-owned co-operative.
Mr Tracy joined MG in 2009, becoming chairman in 2011.
Mr Spark joins the boards of MG and MG Responsible Entity Limited as a special director at the end of this week, bringing experience from a range of agricultural, industrial and business management backgrounds.
He was previously a director of stockfeed business, Ridley, from 2008 until 2015, and chairman from 2010.
Until recently he ran Angus cattle at Kerrisdale near Yea in central Victoria and was an investor in Victoria’s fourth largest asparagus producer as well as in a large Kiwi fruit business.
Since 2007 he has been on the board of Newcrest Mining Limited, currently chairing its audit and risk committee, and has also been a director with MacArthur Coal; shipping business, ANL, and Melbourne-based industrial waste management services business, Baxter Group.
A former managing partner at accounting, insolvency and business management consultancy firm, Ferrier Hodgson, his time with that company involved restructuring many large Australian companies and returning them to profitability.
He has also worked with accountants, Arthur Andersen, Martin and Waters and spent the early part of his career at Clyde Industries Ltd.
Mr Spark said it would be an “enormous privilege” to join the MG board.
“It is a true honour to have an opportunity to apply my passion and expertise to the chairmanship of Murray Goulburn, a proudly farmer-controlled co-operative and one of the country’s largest agricultural exporters,” he said.
Mr Spark’s appointment is considered one of the last big changes to MG board and management after a year of massive restructuring, triggered by last April’s traumatic farmgate milk payment collapse.
The co-op was forced to revise its bullish export market prospects and profit forecasts, slashing prices it paid for suppliers’ milk and implementing a controversial payment clawback scheme to recover money already paid to farmers who had also endured an unusually dry spring and summer.
The incoming chairman looked forward to playing a central role at MG “to build a stronger company for the future”, working closely with other directors and new chief executive officer, Ari Mervis, also a newcomer to the company just a month ago.
Commenting on his retirement, Mr Tracy said the time was right to complete MG’s leadership transition.
“It has been an honour to be chairman and contribute to the co-operative which has invested in world class infrastructure and developed branded retail opportunities,” he said.
“I would also like to thank each supplier for their ongoing support of the co-operative.
“I wish them all, MG and the Australian dairy industry every success.”