How Hubbard turned tables on Nattrass

Stuart Nattrass
Allan Hubbard

Former South Canterbury Finance director Stuart Nattrass visited company founder Allan Hubbard on his dialysis couch to tell him it was time to give up the chairmanship of the group.

But Mr Hubbard turned the tables and told Mr Nattrass he was sacking him instead.

It is the second of the 16-week trial in Timaru of the company’s two directors Edward Sullivan, Robert White and chief executive Lachie McLeod.

Mr Nattrass described to the court how he had become emboldened in late 2009 to move a vote of no confidence in the chairman Mr Hubbard at a board meeting from which Mr Hubbard was absent.

The catalyst was the entry into the Crown Deposit Guarantee scheme and Mr Hubbard’s refusal to sell assets such as Helicopters NZ.

Mr Hubbard thought the way out of the company’s declining economic fortunes was to place more assets in the company and embark upon a Forsyth Barr plan for a public float.

Mr Nattrass told the court that the last thing South Canterbury needed was more assets. And the Forsyth Barr plan would have destroyed more shareholder funds, he believed.

The wider context to events was the entry of South Canterbury Finance into the Crown Deposit Guarantee scheme.

Mr Nattrass saw this as a game changer that would eliminate “the Hubbard factor” because of the increased governance requirements and tighter lending criteria.

These factors all combined to the point where Mr Nattrass says he told Mr Sullivan it was time to move Mr Hubbard on.

But Mr Sullivan was “not complimentary” to the idea of Mr Nattrass taking over the chair.

Mr Nattress told the court that Mr Sullivan informed Mr Hubbard there were moves afoot to have him removed.

In the background was financier George Kerr who was circling with his own plan to invest in South Canterbury Finance and he met with Mr Hubbard in Omarama to discuss a deal.

Next day Mr Nattrass was told he could meet with Mr Hubbard in his home about 7pm to discuss the vote of no confidence while Mr Hubbard was having dialysis.

“Mr Hubbard informed me he was going to fire me and he gave me the option of retiring.”

A telephone call then came through from an Auckland law firm telling Mr Nattrass to leave the Hubbard home.

He tendered his resignation a couple of days later.

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