AWI boss stands down as CEO to move to new posting overseas

AWI boss stands down as CEO to move to new posting overseas

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Australian Wool Innovation boss Stuart McCullough has stood down as chief executive officer after 12 years in the top job.

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AWI's boss for the past 12 years, Stuart McCullough has stood down from the top job to take an overseas posting.

AWI's boss for the past 12 years, Stuart McCullough has stood down from the top job to take an overseas posting.

Australian Wool Innovation boss Stuart McCullough has stood down as chief executive officer after 12 years in the top job.

Mr McCullough will stay with AWI in a newly created position of chief marketing and innovation officer in an overseas posting.

The current chief operating officer John Roberts has been named acting CEO ahead of a search process to be conducted by the board to identify a permanent CEO.

Mr Roberts has already indicated he wants to keep the top job.

The changes take effect from today ahead of AWI's November 19 annual meeting.

Mr McCullough has more than 35 years of experience in the wool industry, including 20 years with AWI and almost 12 years in the CEO role.

Although he has taken up the new job from today, the eventual overseas location of his appointment is not yet known.

In a statement today, AWI said the shift would allow Mr McCullough to devote his time to the biggest issues facing the wool industry and Australian woolgrowers.

In the role, Mr McCullough will be charged with addressing the industry's greatest challenges, such as the proposed European labelling laws that could severely disadvantage the fibre, as well as maximising the opportunities for wool's growth as the world comes out of COVID-19 conditions.

AWI chairman Jock Laurie said the board had identified a clear need for an international role dedicated to the critical issues facing the industry.

"If you look at the factors that are going to define the success of the wool industry for all growers in the decades to come, many of them are international," Mr Laurie said.

"We need to address issues across the wool supply chain, from processing concentration to ever-changing retail and consumers trends, and we need to continue driving demand for the fibre as the world recovers from COVID-19.

"Most immediately, we need to resist damaging changes to European Union labelling laws that would fail to recognise wool's natural, sustainable and renewable benefits.

"What the Australian wool industry needs is a passionate advocate to take up those issues on behalf of the industry, and there is no one with a better skillset and experience than Stuart.

"It was a logical decision to free Stuart from his other responsibilities as CEO to enable him to devote his time to fighting for the woolgrowers on the world stage."

After starting his career as a jackeroo on a sheep farm, Mr McCullough moved on to management roles engaged in all aspects of the wool industry as a wool classer, international wool exporter, trader and buyer, as well as global sales management roles.

Mr McCullough said he was delighted to take on the new role "where I believe I can make the biggest difference to the future of our industry".

"During my time as CEO, the critical issues for the success of our industry have become clear. While AWI will always support growers on-farm and through its local R&D initiatives, it is the big macro international trends that will have the most significant impact on the industry over the long term.

Mr Roberts said he was pleased to be named acting CEO and would put himself forward as a candidate to take on the role on a permanent basis.

Mr Roberts, who comes from a wool-producing family at Binalong in NSW, has more than 30 years of experience in the wool industry, having worked in a wide range of roles at AWI, Woolmark and in private agribusiness companies, including as a wool buyer and trader.

He was appointed COO in October 2020.

Mr Laurie said the AWI Board would conduct a rigorous process to identify a permanent CEO from internal and external candidates, with a view to making an announcement in early 2022.

That board will have at least three new faces after the November 19 AGM with three director positions will be decided.

The AGM comes at a turbulent time for the wool industry with AWI pushing for a return to two per cent levies and groups like WoolProducers Australia advising eligible wool levy payers to vote for 1.5 per cent in this year's WoolPoll.

Held every three years, the voluntary vote sets the levy rate for Australian Wool Innovation research, development and marketing activities.

AWI has come under criticism from industry and also at Senate hearings over its marketing activities and governance.

AWI's support for a commercial online selling platform, WoolQ, has come under sustained criticism from the industry.

AWI has recently said it was now looking to commercialise WoolQ.

Many farmers have questioned the spending of levies to prop up WoolQ since it was launched in 2018.

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