AACo CEO Hugh Killen suddenly quits”

It’s not that quick for every top brass resignation. AACo’s chief financial officer, Nigel Simonsz, last month announced his departure and is staying on until the end of next month.

Speculation is that maybe Killen’s departure is prompted by iron ore billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest swooping on a 17.4 per cent stake in the company last week, potentially causing a shake-up. Killen has been seen internally as close to Tavistock, which has 48 per cent of AACo and is the investment vehicle of Tottenham Hotspur soccer team-owning billionaire Joe Lewis.

Trouble plane

McGauchie proclaimed a list of achievements during Killen’s time as boss since 2018: steering Brisbane-based AACo through horrible droughts and then floods, pushing a premium brand strategy and leading a “turnaround” in company performance.

That is selling him short. There was also the time AACo took JobKeeper subsidies while flying Killen on its private turboprop to his south-east NSW home. AACo had maintained using the plane was appropriate, hygienically safe amid pandemic concerns, and under McGauchie’s instructions.

Then there was the time AACo donated a trip valued at $15,000, using the plane to travel to company properties, to an auction luncheon for The King’s School rugby club where, yep, Killen was an old boy. AACo explained it was one of many worthy donations to various charities, had a minimal cost and benefited the company too.

The beef giant on Tuesday said Killen’s departure payout would be “in line with contractual obligations”, a line almost every ASX-listed company rolls out and should be consigned to the bin given its vagueness.

The annual report indicates “employee-initiated termination” can trigger a payment in lieu of notice of six months’ pay, equaling $300,000 in Killen’s case. The board can make the call on whether his unvested 86,845 performance rights will lapse, while his 452,042 shares are worth more than $1 million.

Those shares have climbed of late, with agriculture a hot sector right now and big investors taking notice. If only AACo started paying dividends on them, which hasn’t happened since 2008.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.