Michael Perich has been announced as the interim CEO for Freedom Foods Group, as investigations continue into how the company amassed more than $60 million in inventory write-downs and $10 million in bad debts.
The Perich family own 54 per cent of the business. They are Australia’s largest dairy farming family and became major shareholders in 2005.
The board said in the process of the operational review it became apparent that, “for the successful recapitalisation of the company there is a need for executive ownership and accountability to implement the operational turnaround. This cannot wait for an external search for a new CEO to be completed”.
It said Perich’s “deep understanding” of the business would provide the stability, focus and leadership needed to manage its issues.
In late June there was the shock resignation of CFO and company secretary Campbell Nicholas, followed the next day by CEO and managing director Rory McLeod taking leave.
The next day Group chair Perry Gunner told investors the $25 million inventory write-down announced in March was more likely to be $60 million, with an increase to $10 million in bad debts and PwC and Ashurst being hired to investigate the situation.
Rory McLeod resigned on 29 June.
The company announced a trading halt until 30 October on 9 July.
Perich will step down from his current non-executive alternate director for Ron Perich to take up the role.
Perry Gunner will immediately cease his position as executive chair to resume his non-executive chair position.
Tim Bryan, the alternate director for Tony Perich will now also do so for Ron Perich.
Brendan Radford, who had been acting as CEO, will return to his position as commercial director and Stephanie Graham will remain acting CFO until an appointment is made.
The board said it would look for a permanent CEO once an operational turnaround has “sufficiently progressed”.
Perich is director of dairy farm operations for the family's diversified farming business Leppington Pastoral Company and joint managing director of dairy joint venture Australian Fresh Milk Holdings. He will stand down from these roles to take up the acting CEO position.