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Wrightson board rings in a changing of the guard

Monday 15th April 2019

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PGG Wrightson's board will go through a major reshuffle at the end of the month with David Cushing among the incoming directors. 

Deputy chair Trevor Burt and independent directors Bruce Irvine and John Nichol will retire on April 30 and be replaced by Cushing, Rodger Finlay and Sarah Brown. The three appointees are deemed to be independent directors. 

Finlay, who is deputy chair of the Cushing-controlled farm manager Rural Equities, will assume Wrightson's chair. He replaces Agria representative Joo Hai Lee, who will be Finlay's deputy. 

H&G, the Cushing family's investment vehicle, bought a 2.2 percent stake from Agria last week, adding 17 million shares to its existing stake of 3.1 million shares. That equates to about 2.7 percent of Wrightson's shares on issue. 

The Cushing family has a long track-record with Wrightson. In 2005, H&G sold into a Wrightson takeover of Hawkes Bay-based stock and station agency Williams & Kettle.

Selwyn Cushing subsequently joined Wrightson's board and stayed on as a director until 2012, overseeing the merger with Pyne Gould Guinness, the aborted Silver Fern Farms deal, and the introduction of Agria as a cornerstone in the business in 2009 when it bailed out the company. David Cushing acted as an alternative Wrightson director for Agria executive chair Alan Lai in 2010.

Finlay's other board roles include a directorship of Ngāi Tahu Holdings, the investment arm of the major South Island iwi, which also holds a 3.6 percent interest in Wrightson. Ngāi Tahu had been a co-investor with Chinese agribusiness New Hope International when Agria took control of Wrightson in a 2011 partial takeover. 

Incoming director Brown is a Southland-based lawyer, who sits on the boards of Electricity Invercargill and PowerNet. She and Finlay also sit on the independent advisory panel of the Provincial Growth Fund. 

Wrightson is currently awaiting Overseas Investment Office approval to sell its seeds business to Danish cooperative DLF Seeds for $434 million. The transaction has already cleared the Commerce Commission and other regulatory hurdles in South America and Australia. 

If that's completed, the slimmed down business will consist of stock agency, retail and water rural services based entirely in New Zealand. 

Its shares last traded at 49.5 cents. 

(BusinessDesk)

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