Kordia boss out, role axed

Kordia Group CEO Geoff Hunt is leaving the state-owned communications and broadband company. His role has been axed.

Like the cow in Douglas Adams' Restaurant at the End of the Universe that wants* to be eatenit seems Mr Hunt ageed to his own demise, or at least that of the Group CEO role.

Speaking to NBR ONLINE this afternoon, Kordia chairman David Clarke said "Geoff agreed with the decision. He saw the logic."

Group CEO Mr Hunt has three direct reports: Kordia NZ CEO Scott Bartlett, Kordia Solutions Australia CEO Peter Robson and CFO Shaun Rendell. After he leaves in March, the three will report to the board.

While he didn't have an example of another company with a similar setup at his fingertips, Mr Clarke described it as "not unusual in the twenty-first century" (Institute of Directors head Ralph Chivers agreed.)

The board would not need to increase the frequency of its meetings (11 times a year plus a phone conference in December). 

"They [Bartlett and Robson] both very good operators and self-contained," Mr Clarke said. Both had been given a boost to their delegated authority.

Aussie spin-off or privatisation ahead?
The restructure was not a precursor to divisional spin-off or full sale, the chaiirman said. (Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce has previously told NBR ONLINE that privatising Kordia is not on the government's agenda; primarily because the break-even business would be unlikely to generate a significant price compared to power companies and larger assets up for partial sell-off.)

Rather, it was a common sense operational decision. "There's little interplay between the two businesses," Mr Clarke said. The New Zealand operation drew its revenue from operations including broadcast TV transmission, a digital radio network and an ISP (Orcon). The Australian side of the business was more focussed on engineering services to phone companies and the energy sector.

Kordia's proposed 'OptiKor' submarine cable is an obvious example of a project that would span both territories.

"OptiKor is on hold at the moment but anything strategic of this nature would have to be approved by the board," the chairman said.

Mr Clarke did not accept that Orcon, as a retail ISP, was out of place in Kordia, given its overal focus on wholesale and business services. But he did add, "You may find that Orcon will move into more of the SME [small to medium enterprise] business."

The new power trio
Kordia NZ CEO Mr Bartlett is the 32-year-old protégée of enterpreneur Seeby Woodhouse. He became part of Kordia when the SOE bought Mr Woodhouse's ISP, Orcon, in 2007. In October he became head of Kordia NZ (the merged Kordia Networks and Orcon divisions with around $163 million revenue). Today, Kordia said the remaining local business, Kordia Solutions, had also been brought under Mr Bartlett to give him full control of the $200 million NZ operation.

CFO Mr Rendell is an immigrant from the UK, where he worked with British Telecom and O2. He joined Kordia last year from struggling Renaissance, where he was acting CEO.

Kordia Solutions Australia CEO Peter Robson has been the rainmaker for the company, landing a series of super-size deals including a $A90 million telecommunications and networking contract for a giant coal seam gas mine in Queensland. He was formerly COO for  Australian Associated Press and before tht general counsel for the same company.

Kordia began life as BCL, TVNZ's broadcasting arm.

With its core analogue television broadcasting business set to be elimanted by the digital TV transition (now underway) the state-owned company  has diversified into areas including digital radio, wholesale and retail broadband services and telecommunications infrastructure and engineering services.


* Don't come crying to NBR if you get arrested for viewing copyright-infringing material on YouTube

RAW DATA: Kordia statement

Geoff Hunt leaves a refocused Kordia after eight years as Group CEO

For immediate release:- Kordia is today announcing the departure of its Group CEO Geoff Hunt after a transformational eight years at the helm of the state-owned enterprise.

Hunt was recruited in 2005 to lead THL Group which was facing a challenging future, comprised at the time of three telecommunications and broadcast engineering businesses.

Hunt successfully led the Group through a comprehensive ‘broadcast to broadband’ transformation, building a solid business that is now well positioned for the switch-off of analogue television when New Zealand switches to digital later this year.

Renamed Kordia Group in 2006, the focus on niche, growth markets has been highly successful, with strong businesses now operating on both sides of the Tasman.

During Hunt’s tenure, Group revenue has lifted from $120m to $400m, with 60 per cent of that revenue derived from services and customers new to Kordia over the last five years.  In 2012, Kordia Group posted a record net profit after tax of $12.1m and is well placed for growth.

Kordia Group Chairman David Clarke says that part of that on-going growth is contingent on further consolidation.

“Late last year, we announced that Orcon, our ISP subsidiary, would be merged into Kordia Networks creating a new business, Kordia New Zealand.  This move was designed to remove cost and to increase focus on the business telecommunications market,” says Geoff Hunt.

“Now the engineering and field services operation, Kordia Solutions New Zealand, will also be merged into Kordia New Zealand, creating a substantial business with total annual sales just under $200m,” he says.

With the Australian business also turning over $200m, Hunt says his job is done.   “Now that both businesses are performing well, it makes sense that they each now report directly to the Kordia Board,” says Hunt.

Scott Bartlett leads the new Kordia New Zealand and Peter Robson continues to lead Kordia Solutions Australia.  Both will now report to the Board, along with the Group CFO, Shaun Rendell.

Geoff Hunt will leave Kordia Group at the end of March.

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