8 Jul 2015

Fonterra pays tribute to first CEO

2:28 pm on 8 July 2015

Fonterra dairy co-operative has paid tribute to its first chief executive, Craig Norgate, who has died in London at the age of 50.

Craig Norgate.Photo from https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=7896846846&set=a.7896741846.23216.711706846&type=1&theater

Craig Norgate at a Christmas party in 2007. Photo: SUPPLIED / Facebook

Mr Norgate was appointed CEO when Fonterra was created in 2001 by the merger of the two biggest dairy companies - Kiwi and the Dairy Group - and the New Zealand Dairy Board.

He was only 36 at the time and had been chief executive of Taranaki-based dairy co-operative Kiwi.

He headed New Zealand's biggest company and exporter for two years.

Fonterra's chairman John Wilson said Mr Norgate played a key role in the formation of Fonterra and made a significant contribution, helping bring together the three big players in the New Zealand dairy industry with the strategic vision he was known for.

He said he remained a close and trusted friend and mentor to many of Fonterra's people.

Fonterra's first chairman, John Roadley, said Mr Norgate's death had come as a shock.

"I enjoyed working with him. He was a very big picture man, he had his foot on the throttle 100 percent and never took a backward step on anything. His mental capacity was huge... he could see way ahead in the future, where most couldn't even dream of being, but he was there.

"He always believed in the single company concept as the sensible outcome for the evolution of the dairy industry and he played a very significant role both within Kiwi and the dairy board, and ultimately in Fonterra itself... His passing is very, very sad."

After leaving Fonterra, Mr Norgate was instrumental in restructuring the rural servicing industry through a series of mergers that led to the country's biggest rural servicing firm, PGG Wrightson, which he also chaired for a time.

He also saw the need to rationalise the meat industry and initiated a proposed partnership between PGG Wrightson and the country's biggest meat company, Silver Fern Farms.

That fell over when the former failed to get the finance it needed to buy a 50 percent stake in Silver Fern, costing it millions of dollars in default payments.

In 2010, Rural Portfolio Investments, and its financing arm, Rural Portfolio Capital - half-owned by Craig Norgate in partnership with the McConnon family -were put into receivership.

He later became chief executive of the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants.