Leighton Has A New Chairman After Board Upheaval

Photo: Getty/Harry Engels

Construction Company Leighton has elected long-time director Robert Humphris as its new chairman, after Stephen Johns quit last week.

Humphris has been on Leighton’s board for nearly 10 years.

Johns’ spot at the head of the table needed to be filled after he quit last week, saying major shareholder HOCHTIEF didn’t want an independent board at Leighton.

The Australian has reported that while Humphris was supported by independent director Paula Dywer, he might only be in the top job as an interim solution.

Two more appointments still need to be made to replace the directors who followed Johns out the door last week.

HOCHTIEF released a letter to the market last week that said it disagreed with the claims Johns made in his resignation letter.

It singled out Johns’claim that HOTCHTIEF boss Marcelino Fernandez Verdes interfered with the appointment of a new independent director that Johns was backing.

While Leighton has operated under a board where most of the directors are non-HOCHTIEF picks, it also said in its letter that it’s “free to reconsider these matters at any time if it so chooses.”

HOCHTIEF also said it was “greatly concerned” with the Leighton independent directors’ plans for new governance rules that would exclude HOCHTIEF from any “material” role in nominating future directors or the chairman.

Last week Leighton’s share price went down on the news of Johns’ resignation, though a Commonwealth Bank research noted that this was probably an overreaction to “existing governance concerns.”

“Many people in the market already believed the board to lack independence despite minority representation from HOCHTIEF,” the Commonwealth Bank Global Markets Research note said.

After the news Leighton shares fell 7% to $20.19 at the close on Friday.

Now read: Leighton Chairman And Two Board Members Walk Over Independence Row

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