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Sacred cows in Enza sights

By Aimee McClinchy

Friday 1st September 2000

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Enza's new corporate chairman Tony Gibbs has indicated the apple and pear marketer's grower-only shareholder structure may change and has said nothing is "a sacred cow."

Growers' concern with such possibilities was a pessimistic, "self-centred attitude," said Mr Gibbs, who is executive director of Guinness Peat Group, chairman of Turners & Growers and a Wrightson director.

Mr Gibbs said grower shareholders would be consulted on the new corporate-run board's strategic review, due to be completed on September 30 but ultimately the board would decide the changes.

The review would look at the whole company, including its capital structure, and may consider public listing.

Pipfruit Growers chairman Phil Alison earlier said many were worried that if non-growers were allowed to own shares in Enza, the corporate culture would see Enza keep more money within the company with lower returns to growers already struggling to survive.

For many growers, corporate control of their future is seen as a death knell.

"I think that is a very pessimistic view of growers," Mr Gibbs said. "Any successful company looks after its suppliers: in Turners & Growers we look after our suppliers."

Mr Gibbs said the board did not intend to elect another director to the still vacant seventh position.

Through the new 40% combined shareholdings of GPG and FR Partners, which have taken leases on orchards, Mr Gibbs and his colleagues hold four of the six board seats.

The move to take control of the board on Monday surprised many growers and made history as corporate interests took a formerly government-regulated producer board by storm.

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