Murray Goulburn mystery

MYSTERY surrounds the sudden resignations of two key Murray Goulburn Co-operative executives.

Company secretary Ian Bird and chief operating officer Paul Kerr both announced their resignations on Friday.

Murray Goulburn is remaining tight-lipped about the resignations.

“It’s an internal matter and the company is not going to comment,” said the company’s media spokesman, Robert Poole.

The resignations came within weeks of Gary Helou taking over as managing director from Stephen O’Rourke.

The co-operative’s chairman, Grant Davies, had earlier announced his intention to resign from the position at this month’s annual general meeting, citing the need to devote more time to his farm, which was badly affected by this year’s floods. He has been chairman for only two years.

Mr Helou, the former chief executive of Ricegrowers Limited, took over the reins on October 3.

The coincidence of Mr Helou’s appointment and the resignations poses an obvious question: are the events related.

Mr Helou was in Koroit earlier for supplier meetings, but was unable to speak to media during his visit. Access to the supplier meetings was denied.

A spokesman said Mr Helou’s priority was to meet with suppliers to outline plans for the co-operative’s development.

Neither Mr Bird nor Mr Kerr could be contacted.

Murray Goulburn insiders who cannot be named suggest that the position of Mr Kerr, in particular, was made untenable by Mr Helou’s appointment. He had been widely seen within the company as a likely natural successor to Mr O’Rourke and would have been a generally popular choice.

Mr Kerr has held his position, with responsibility for supply chain infrastructure and information technology, since 1996.

Until this year, Murray Goulburn has been through a long period of stable management. In the space of a few months it has been all change at the top and shareholders are watching closely to see where Mr Helou takes the company.

Mr Helou was at the helm of the farmer-owned Ricegrowers, which trades are SunRice, for 11 years. He quit after shareholders rejected a $610 million takeover bid by Spanish company Ebro Foods in May.

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