Tuesday 13th February 2018
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Veteran insolvency specialist Michael Stiassny has ended almost three decades as one of the nation's premier corporate undertakers, leaving KordaMentha for what he describes as "greener pastures".
Auckland-based Stiassny resigned from KordaMentha late last year, having joined the firm, when it was known as Ferrier Hodgson, in 1990. Stiassny has overseen a number of high-profile liquidations and receiverships, including the Central North Island Forest Partnership which saw him sell back the forestry estate to partners Fletcher Forests and China's Citic for $1.2 billion in 2001, and the 2009 Crafar farms appointment that whipped up sentiment against foreign buyers of farm land. More recently, he was involved in the 2013 MediaWorks receivership, which left a $22 million disputed tax bill with the empty shell companies of the broadcaster.
Stiassny has been seen as a hard-nosed company director, overseeing a ban on recordings at Vector annual meetings as the Auckland lines company chair and was brought into Tower's board in 2012 during the break-up of the Guinness Peat Group investment portfolio. Other directorships include Queenstown Airport and Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Whai Rawa.
"I'm not doing insolvency, I'm doing resolution of issues, helping people with strategic things - for instance, I'm a negotiator for the government and the city council for the America's Cup, and I've got some board seats, so whatever takes my fancy really," Stiassny told BusinessDesk. "I have been for some time involved more in resolving issues, rather than being a receiver or a liquidator - I don't think I've done that for some time. This is just a natural progression to do that away from that brand."
Stiassny has been called on for help in the past outside his insolvency practice, including his appointment to the New Zealand Racing Board in 2006 by then-minister Winston Peters to whip the entity into shape, and by Waikato Tainui in 2000 to advise on a major restructure after some dud investments undermined the iwi's asset base just five years after the landmark Treaty settlement.
In December, litigation funder LPF Group announced Stiassny would join their board early this year. Stiassny was the president of the Institute of Directors (IoD) until last year and remains a chartered fellow of the IoD.
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