Australian Agricultural Company’s (AACo) managing director and chief executive officer, Jason Strong, has resigned.
AACo chairman, Donald McGauchie, has confirmed Mr Strong is quitting the big beef cattle farming, processing and marketing operation – one of Australia’s oldest registered businesses.
No details explaining the reasons behind his sudden departure announcement have been spelt out.
AACo’s share price did not like the news – reversing its rising trend of the past week during Friday morning’s trade.
We have thanked Jason for his significant contribution to AACo and in leading the company as we transition from pastoral company towards a vertically integrated, luxury, branded beef business
Mr Strong became managing director in January 2014 after the abrupt departure of David Farley.
He had previously worked for AACo as its marketing general manager.
“We have thanked Jason for his significant contribution to AACo and in leading the company as we transition from pastoral company towards a vertically integrated, luxury, branded beef business,” Mr McGauchie said.
“Jason’s depth of market knowledge and passion for the Australian beef industry has been of tremendous value to AACo during his four year tenure.”
“He leaves the business a respected leader, colleague and friend. We wish him well as he pursues his future opportunities.”
Mr Strong said he, too, was “very proud of all that we have achieved at AACo”.
“To have been able to achieve one of our best operating results in 193 years during the company’s transition is a testament to the business and everyone in it,” he said.
AACo owns and operates 21 stations, two farms, two feedlots and a processing plant near Darwin, running 540,000 head across 7 million hectares of land.
It also works closely with partners to background, grain feed and process cattle.
Just a week ago Mr Strong was a keynote speaker at the big Yulgilbar Beef Expo and Forum, on the Myer family’s famous northern NSW property near Grafton, giving no indication his departure was on the cards.
He had outlined the “why and how” of AACo’s vertical integration shift from large-scale beef cattle producer to also become a diverse meat brand marketer and processor.
Search for a replacement
AACo’s board has engaged executive recruitment firm, Egon Zehnder, to lead an executive search for a new managing director, with a plan to fill the appointment by December.
The board anticipated the search would include both external and internal candidates.
AACo executive director and representative of major AACo shareholder Tavistock Group, Shehan Dissanayake, has told the board he would not be available for the role.
During the executive search period, the company’s leadership team will be augmented by an interim operating committee led by Mr McGauchie.
Other independent directors, Stuart Black, the audit and risk management committee chairman and Tom Keene, the staff remuneration committee chairman, will be on the leadership team.
Mr Strong originally joined AACo from Meat and Livestock Australia where he had been the regional manager in Europe with responsibility for European and Russian markets.
His career has spanned 20-plus in the beef industry, including owning a stud and commercial cattle property at Gunnedah in NSW and owning and managing high end butcher shops in Brisbane.
Prior to being with MLA he was head of new market development for Pfizer Animal Genetics and headed Meat Standards Australia’s grading services.
AACo’s share price had climbed from $1.60 in the past week to around $1.64 until the announcement of Mr Strong’s shock departure was made to the Australian Securities Exchange.
Trading during the day pushed the price back to around $1.52.