AACo boss farewells shareholders at Darwin AGM with board to focus on efficiency, luxury brands

The chairman of Australia’s largest beef producer says it will push ahead with its luxury branded beef strategy as it looks to recruit a new chief executive.

Australian Agricultural Company’s (AACo) annual general meeting, which was held in Darwin on Wednesday, came just two weeks after CEO Jason Strong announced his resignation having spent three and a half years in the role.

Chairman Donald McGauchie thanked Jason Strong on behalf of shareholders for his efforts and commitment to the business.

Mr McGauchie said the board was now focused on ensuring the company’s goals are met in marketing itself internationally as an efficient producer of quality, high-end beef.

“Then we work back through the marketing, distribution and integrated supply chain, back to the decisions made about the genetics of what we do.

“That’s now done on an entire-company basis.”

There had been speculation in the media as to whether Jason Strong was forced out with influence wielded by director Shehan Dissanayake, a representative of the company’s major shareholder Tavistock.

However, quite noticeably, Dr Dissanayake was the only board member to stand during applause for Mr Strong following the delivery of his final annual report at the AGM.

Mr McGauchie told ABC Rural he welcomes the efforts of all board members, including that of Dr Dissanayake and fellow Tavistock representative Neil Reisman.

“As a company, they have supported the strategy from day one. They’ve been part of developing the strategy.

“Having someone of the experience and skill of both Shehan and Neil Reisman on the board is something that I am incredibly grateful for.”

The Tavistock group, which is believed to hold a 40 per cent stake in AACo, is owned by British billionaire Joe Lewis.

Outgoing CEO Jason Strong spoke at the meeting of his pride and achievements in having led the company.

He told ABC Rural the reports in the media suggesting he was encouraged to leave are false, with the decision to leave resting entirely with him.

“It seems like whenever a chief executive leaves, there’s speculation,” he said.

“All we can do is talk about the decision and why I’ve made it.”

Mr Strong said he’s enjoyed his time with AACo and was now looking to move on to new opportunities elsewhere, including study.

“Of course I love the business, and we’ve had a fantastic time in the last three or four years with the changes and progression we’ve made,” he said.

“We appreciate this is a big decision for me, a big decision for the business and we’ve been very conscious about how we manage that.”

AACo has now engaged a recruitment firm to fill the role of chief executive by the end of the year.

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