ASX-listed Vocus Group (ASX: VOC) has shuffled its boardroom lineup, appointing M2 co-founder and executive director, Vaughan Bowen, as its next non-executive chairman, and Robert Mansfield (AO) as its deputy chairman and lead independent director.
Bowen’s appointment follows on from the decision of the current chairman, David Spence, not to stand for re-election at the company’s 2017 annual general meeting after seven years in the role.
Mansfield succeeds Craig Farrow, who is still remaining on the board as a non-executive director, chairman of the remuneration committee and a member of the technology and transformation committee. Mansfield previously served as chairman of Telstra, founding CEO of Optus and CEO of McDonalds Australia. He was appointed as a Vocus non-executive director in January this year.
Bowen’s telco career spans nearly 20 years. He has held his executive director position with Vocus since February 2016, following the merger between Vocus and M2 Group. Bowen was the founder of the M2 Group and served as its managing director and CEO.
On his appointment, Bowen said he plays an important role in helping steer Vocus back to a position where it can recover the value and credibility lost during a disappointing year.
“I want to assure all shareholders that restoring value is the board’s utmost priority and, as a sizeable Vocus shareholder, my interests are aligned with all shareholders. I recognise the time for delivering improved, sustainable performance is now and am confident in the talent and experience amongst the leadership team together with the outstanding infrastructure platform we have assembled,” Bowen said. “With these ingredients in place, meeting our earnings and broader performance targets will be the only acceptable outcomes.”
In a statement, Farrow said Vocus would continue its board renewal process in the year ahead to ensure that it builds upon its capability and independence.
“The board believes that given the critical stage of the company in its transformation program, the absolute priority in terms of appointing a new chairman was to ensure that the positive momentum the company is now experiencing be maintained,” Farrow said. “Bowen’s appointment brings continuity to that momentum, together with deep knowledge of the business and an established, effective engagement with executive leadership and key stakeholders. Furthermore, the appointment of Mansfield provides Vocus with combined board leadership of the highest order, in terms of industry experience and company knowledge.”
The boardroom shuffle comes as Vocus faces the spectre of a proposed class action by law firm, Slater and Gordon, alleging that the publicly-listed telco misled shareholders over its FY17 financial guidance.
In August, Vocus revealed its preliminary, unaudited financials for the 2017 financial year, showing that the company brought in a net profit after tax (NPAT) tally that came in $152.3 million below the company’s guidance range of $160 million to $165 million.
According to the Australian telco, this downgrade was primarily due to higher than forecast net finance costs and a higher effective tax rate at 33.4 per cent.
This followed the company’s move in May to wipe off $100 million from its revenue target for the financial year ending 2017, blaming the forecast downgrade on lower than expected billings in its enterprise and wholesale business, and re-jigged terms on a number of large projects.