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Fisher & Paykel board recruits controversial Aussie exec

Australian-based Sue Morphet has been appointed to the board of Chinese-owned Fisher & Paykel Appliances Holdings.

Companies Office records show the former chief executive of ASX-listed Pacific Brands was appointed on January 1 but the company announced the appointment today.

“The board is delighted to announce Sue’s appointment as a director," Fisher & Paykel Appliances Holdings chairman Dr Keith Turner says, in a statement. 

"Sue’s commercial experience, strong track record and retail experience in Australia, our largest market, make her a valuable addition."

In 2009, while chief executive of Pacific Brands, Ms Morphet came under pressure after her pay hiked from about $A680,000 to more than $A1.8 million, as the manufacturer of brands such as Berlei, Bonds and Jockey posted a big loss and slashed jobs across Australia as it shifted work to China.

She stepped down two years ago, after the company announced a loss of $A450.7 million.

Her appointment may spark speculation that Fisher & Paykel may be looking to move its Auckland manufacturing operations offshore, which was last an issue in late 2012 when Chinese whiteware maker Haier took over the former publicly-listed company.

In September 2012, after the takeover bid was announced, Haier said the company's long-term preference was to keep F&P's "innovation capability" in New Zealand.

However, the company made it clear the comments only related to the proposed offer and it reserved the right to make changes after consulting Fisher & Paykel's board.

At the time, that conditional promise did little to allay union fears of a Kiwi manufacturing shutdown.

Melbourne-based Ms Morphet is chairwoman of lobby group Manufacturing Australia, and a director of National Tiles and Merton Pastoral. 

Ms Morphet held a number of senior positions at Pacific Brands from 1996 to 2008, including group general manager, Bonds and general manager of Tontine. 

Fisher & Paykel's statement says Ms Morphet has extensive retail experience, has developed and driven digital strategy, led business transformations and successful brand development. 

"In particular, Sue has a deep understanding of the Australian retail market and Australian consumers," the statement says.

dwilliams@nbr.co.nz

More by David Williams

Comments and questions
2

Looks like the writing is on the wall.

FPA was moving its manufacturing overseas well before Haier got involved. In fact, it stuffed up the process that badly, resulting in a huge cash crunch, that it needed Haier to step in.

The manufacturing was always going to be lost to NZ, the question is can we keep the high value added R&D jobs in NZ?