Newspaper article The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia)

Miller Chair Steps Down Board Chairman Opts out; Change at Top MSL's 'Only Chance'

Newspaper article The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia)

Miller Chair Steps Down Board Chairman Opts out; Change at Top MSL's 'Only Chance'

Article excerpt

Byline: Campbell Gellie

EXCLUSIVE: Mackay Sugar will have to survive its most difficult time with a new leader after long-serving chairman Andrew Cappello stood down from the top job.

The shock resignation comes soon after what some described as 'the worst AGM the company had ever had'.

Mr Cappello had been chairman for seven years, during the most challenging period in the company's history.

Beset with ballooning debt, poor milling performance and shrinking crop sizes, the miller is nowhere near out of the woods, prompting Mr Cappello to pass the reins to Mark Day.

Some in the industry believe this could be the move that keeps the company in the hands of its growers.

Mackay Sugar is searching for an angel investor to save it from being taken by the banks because of its $180million debt and poor performances over past years.

The company was trying to refinance by selling its profitable Racecourse co-generation plant, Mossman Mill and imposing a $2 a tonne levy on growers.

However, that plan has been put on hold after a legal challenge to the levy by some growers and lower than expected bids for the co-generation plant.

Mr Cappello and Mr Day both declined to be interviewed by The Daily Mercury yesterday.

A statement from Mackay Sugar said the decision came after the October annual general meeting.

Grower and former director Rex Stroppiana, who led the legal challenge against Mackay Sugar's $2 levy and won, said it was the worst AGM the company had had, growers upset by a proposal to shut down one of the company's four mills to cut costs.

"The shareholders lost all respect for the board and management at that meeting," Mr Stroppiana said. "Hopefully, this is a new beginning of some significant change."

Former board member and mill manager Barry Sheedy has thrown his weight behind Mr Day, saying he was the company's best chance of survival.

"Mr Day is (Mackay Sugar's) only chance of getting them to pull through and he will need a lot of support," he said.

"He is sufficiently experienced to recognise the problem and take the steps to fix them but he will need the support of the banks to restore that position because you can't do it without a lot of money. …

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