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Kernahan to leave Fletcher Building for Hall's Group

Tuesday 7th May 2019

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Fletcher Building’s Michelle Kernahan is leaving the company at the end of July for a "new career challenge.”

She is to be chief executive of privately-owned logistics and trucking company Hall’s Group.

“Hall’s is delighted to secure an executive of Michelle’s calibre and experience,” chair Karl Smith said, noting Kernahan's experience, her MBA from Canterbury University and being a graduate of Harvard Business School's advanced management programme.

“Michelle will lead the Hall’s Group as it continues its transformation programme to ensure it becomes the most cost-efficient partner for our customers,” Smith says.

Hall’s specialises in refrigerated and frozen transportation, cold storage services and a range of logistics services including warehousing and distribution.

Kernahan has been at Fletcher since 1998, holding a number of key jobs within that company.

Her appointment as chief executive of Fletcher’s building products division was announced in July last year, although she didn’t start in that role until November when former KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy took over the construction division Kernahan had been managing since March 2017.

Her appointment to head the building products division had all the hallmarks of a promotion, given chief executive Ross Taylor had identified that division as a core business.

It hasn’t been plain sailing at the building products division though. In February, Fletcher reported the division’s operating profit had fallen 10 percent in the six months ended December.

Kernahan’s stint heading the construction division can only be described as tumultuous because her appointment came just as Fletcher was beginning to reveal that division was in trouble, although it remained in denial about the extent of the losses until after Taylor took the helm in late 2017.

Those losses, nearly $1 billion over 18 months, were made by the high-rise construction business, called the Building + Interiors unit, and had been the result of unfavourable contracts the construction division had signed that put all the risks on Fletcher, rather than on the client, which in many cases was the government.

A number of key personnel left the construction division during Kernahan's stewardship including John Burden, who had been in charge of the $1.4 billion Waterview Tunnel project which opened in July 2017, and David Kennedy, who had been recruited from Britain in 2017 to head the B&I unit but who was demoted in early 2018 to head the Commercial Bay project at the bottom of Auckland’s Queen Street. He left Fletcher by September 2018.

Before moving to the construction division, Kernahan had held a number of general management roles at Laminex Australia, Golden Bay Cement and Fletcher EQR, which focused on residential construction and repairs in Christchurch after the 2011 earthquakes.

Fletcher also announced today that its chief information officer, John Bell, is retiring and plans to leave the company in the second half of 2019.

“Michelle and John have been valued members of Fletcher Building’s executive team and I want to thank them for their commitment and leadership. I wish them all the best as they leave the company,” Taylor says in a statement.


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