Synlait names ex-Fonterra executive Leon Clement as CEO

Synlait managing director John Penno will remain on the board.

Synlait Milk has appointed Leon Clement to replace John Penno as chief executive from mid-August.

Mr Penno announced last November he would be stepping down some time this year.

Chairman Graeme Milne says Mr Clement was appointed after a global recruitment search.

“Leon has led major businesses internationally, specifically in Vietnam and Sri Lanka, and has deep experience in the branded dairy sector,” Mr Milne says in a statement.

Mr Clement was Fonterra’s managing director of Fonterra Brands New Zealand and before that was the dairy giant’s managing director of Sri Lanka and the Indian subcontinent.

He was one of four senior Fonterra Brands NZ managers who departed the company suddenly last month.

“He brings a broad range of skills and experience that is relevant to Synlait’s future strategic initiatives,” Mr Milne says.

Mr Clement says in the statement that he’s passionate about New Zealand agriculture and growing people and businesses in a sustainable way.

“That’s why I’m so excited to be joining the Synlait team at such a pivotal time. The progress to date is impressive and, under John’s leadership, Synlait has achieved some significant milestones which have set the business up well for the next phase of growth,” he says.

Mr Penno will continue in a governance role from August after a brief transition period to introduce Mr Clement to the organisation.

“The board is incredibly grateful to John for his contribution as chief executive and the role he’s played in Synlait’s success from the beginning,” Mr Milne says.

Mr Penno founded Synlait in 2000 with Ben Dingle and Juliet Maclean.

“Leon’s appointment is a coup for our employees, dairy farmers and investors,” Mr Penno says in the statement. “He is absolutely the right person to be leading the company toward the profitable and sustainable opportunities we’re targeting.”

Mr Penno is managing director as well as chief executive and Mr Clement won’t have a seat on the board.

“On a personal note, I’m somewhat sad to be stepping down as chief executive but I’m actually more thrilled about the future that lies ahead for Synlait.”

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