21 Mar 2018

Fonterra boss Theo Spierings to step down

1:10 pm on 21 March 2018

Fonterra has announced that its chief executive Theo Spierings is leaving the cooperative later this year.

Theo Spierings, Fonterra CEO

Theo Spierings, Fonterra CEO Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Mr Spierings has been in the job for seven years and said he wanted to find a job that is better, not bigger, than Fonterra.

His resignation comes on the same day Fonterra announced a first half loss after taking a large write-down on its Beingmate investment, in addition to damages paid to its rival, Danone.

The cooperative's loss for the six months ended September was $348m, compared with a profit of $413m a year ago.

The search has already started for Mr Spierings' replacement.

"Theo and the board have now agreed that Theo will leave us later on this year and the board is currently in the process of shortlisting a replacement for Theo," board chair John Wilson said.

"It is not yet clear exactly when any announcement will be made but it is absolutely clear that Theo will continue in the meantime to drive the corporate strategy and business with special emphasis on China."

Mr Spierings was in the spotlight about six months ago when it was revealed that he is New Zealand's highest paid worker, earning $8.3 million in the 2016/17 financial year.

In 2016, an Australian newspaper ran a report saying that Mr Spierings was close to leaving and the head of Air New Zealand, Christopher Luxon, was being eyed as his replacement.

At the time Fonterra dismissed the report.

Fonterra said Mr Spierings' departure was not related to its problems with its China business.