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O’Hoy insists he was not forced out of Foster’s

Foster’s CEO Trevor O’Hoy has insisted that he quit the top job at the global brewing-wine giant and was not dismissed.

O’Hoy resigned on 9 June at an emergency Foster’s Group board meeting but is remaining in the job until a successor is appointed.

‘I want you to know that I resigned. It was my choice,’ he said.

His resignation followed a tough four-year reign mired in poor results from the wine division, which incorporates the Beringer Blass and former Southcorp portfolios.

O’Hoy said at the time of the AUS$1.49bn Southcorp acquisition in early 2005 that he had not wanted to buy it.

There is a general belief in the financial and wine industry that he was over-ruled by the board. Current chairman David Crawford admitted when announcing O’Hoy’s resignation that the company had paid too much for Southcorp.

The board apparently considered that an offer by Rosemount founder, Bob Oatley, to sell his 18.8% share in Southcorp could not be ignored.

Oatley had acquired the bulk of the holding in 2001 when Southcorp bought Rosemount, with Rosemount management taking over the predator, with 40% of the shares.

Southcorp’s subsequent near-collapse, under former Rosemount CEO, Keith Lambert, led to Oatley selling out to Foster’s to try to ensure the company’s survival.

O’Hoy’s resignation was precipitated by a US$700m write-down of its wine division’s assets.

‘I don’t think any time in my career I’ve done anything that I did not believe was in the best interests of Foster’s shareholders,’ O’Hoy said after his resignation.

‘It’s clear I haven’t got every decision right, but the decision I made (on 9 June) was in the interests of Foster’s shareholders.’

Written by Chris Snow in Adelaide

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