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Rosanne Meo & Briscoes: still crazy after all these years

The New Zealand Shareholders' Association supports the re-election of Dame Rosanne Meo to another term as chair of Briscoe Group - despite it being totally against the organisation’s normal governance recommendations.

Dame Rosanne was unanimously voted back into the chair role at the annual meeting of the homeware and sporting goods retailer in Auckland today. She was first appointed to the Briscoe’s board in May 2001, meaning she will have served 20 years in the role by the time her term finishes in 2021.

The Shareholders' Association suggests board members serve no more than three terms, or nine years.

Alan Best, proxy holder for the association at the meeting, says Briscoe's continuing success and the fact there are four independent non-executive directors on the five-person board means it has no concerns, despite the fifth director, Briscoe boss Rod Duke, also holding a large stake in the company.

“This is a particularly good governance structure, with four independent directors to challenge the managing director, even though he’s a 70 percent shareholder.

“If there is strong alignment between management and the board, we’d be critical and say the board can’t fulfil its independent governance function. But if alignment is not so strong as to inhibit proper governance, we’re prepared to waive the normal protocols.

“And it’s pragmatic not to break a board relationship which is very successful.”

This is a particularly good governance structure, with four independent directors to challenge the managing director, even though he’s a 70 percent shareholder.

In February, Briscoe reported its seventh consecutive record annual profit, despite the challenges inherent in the retail sector. The company saw sales top $600 million for the first time, up 25 percent from what it managed five years ago. Profit for the year to January 28 2018 was just above $61 million, an 8 percent increase on the year before, after adjusting for one-off items.

Dame Rosanne, who is in her early 70s, joked after the meeting that she’d promised to drop one directorship for every new grandchild she has. She is now up to four grandkids and will be down to two directorships by the end of the year, she says. She also chairs the Real Estate Institute (Reinz).

But Dame Rosanne says the challenges of the retail sector and the strength and structure of the Briscoe board means she feels she can still add value.

Two of the other board members, Tony Batterton and Andy Coupe, joined in 2016; former EziBuy and Max Fashions CEO Mary Devine has been on the board since 2013.

The shares rose 0.9 percent to $3.47, having dipped 0.3 percent so far this year. 

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