Illness sees Fonterra chair John Wilson replaced by John Monaghan

Illness sees Fonterra chair John Wilson replaced by John Monaghan. Photo: John Sefton

Fonterra Cooperative chair John Wilson has stood down from the role heading the country's largest dairy processor with immediate effect as he recovers from a "serious health scare".

Wilson, who has undergone a significant surgery in the past month and requires ongoing treatment, will remain a Fonterra director until the cooperative’s annual meeting in November, when he will retire from the board, the Auckland-based company said in a statement. Fonterra's board has selected John Monaghan, who has been a director on the board since 2008, as the cooperative’s new chair.

Wilson and outgoing Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings have faced criticism in recent times following the poor performance of the cooperative's 18.8 percent investment in Chinese infant milk formula company Beingmate and lacklustre earnings growth. Spierings announced in March that he would leave the position in the course of this year, and pressure has been mounting for Wilson to also step down.

Fonterra said today that Monaghan has been closely involved in the process to appoint a new chief executive and will now lead that process with the full involvement of the board.

Monaghan grew up on a dairy farm and has farming interests in the Wairarapa and Otago. He has served on multiple Fonterra committees, chairing several of them, and taken a lead role in representing Fonterra’s interests on customer visits and global trade issues and has strong networks both domestically and internationally with key stakeholders, the company said.

Wilson said the decision to stand down as chair had been difficult but was ultimately in the best interests of the cooperative.

“I have made a very good recovery and am well but will need on-going treatment," Wilson said in a statement. "Governance roles are incredibly rewarding, but equally demanding on the individual and their families. Continuing as chairman when I cannot put my full energy and attention into the role is not appropriate.”

Units in the Fonterra Shareholders' Fund, which give investors exposure to Fonterra's earnings, last traded at $5.16 and have dropped 14 percent over the past year