DIRECTORS of the Graziers Investment Company withdrew a motion to pay themselves a retirement bonus before its annual general meeting even started on Monday.
Woolgrowers had been angered by the proposal, in which chairman Barry Walker, deputy chairman John Patten and board members Philip Attard and Robbie Sefton would have pocketed more than $300,000 when they left the role.
WoolProducers Australia had labelled it a “golden handshake” and had called on shareholders to vote against the proposal.
The reason for the benefit was because they believed director fees had been established below market rates, particularly for the sorts of issues they had been negotiating through on behalf of woolgrowers.
These included legacy issues of winding up the International Wool Secretariat Retirement Benefits Pension Plan and resultant sale of The Woolmark Company to Australian Wool Innovation.
But while the payment was off the agenda for this meeting, no guarantees were given by directors for the future.
WAFarmers Wool Council senior vice-president Ken Clark attended the AGM in Sydney and said the motion had been withdrawn at a special meeting of directors the morning of the AGM and WAFarmers was happy with the outcome.
“It’s not just an outcome for WAFarmers but all woolgrowers should be reasonably happy with the outcome for the time being,” he said.
Mr Clark said all woolgrowers should check their shareholding status in GIC because its list of eligible growers might not be up-to-date.
The protracted task of extracting grower funds from India following the sale of GIC’s Mumbai Property was raised at Australian Wool Innovation’s AGM last Friday.
AWI is acting on behalf of GIC to get $4 million in growers’ funds out of India. But the Reserve Bank of India has so far refused to hand over the cash.
At its AGM last Friday, the cost to AWI of pursuing the money was $175,000 and professional fees at $160,000. These costs would be deducted from proceeds of the sale and would not be permanently incurred by AWI.
AWI chief executive Stuart McCullough said it would take 18 years for the company’s Indian office to use up the funds, which meant the money would be stuck in India.
He said the process so far to get the proceeds back to growers had been “exhaustive” and of about 12-13 options that were available at the start of the process to return the money, the board was down to two which it would pursue in consultation with GIC. He would not elaborate on the options before discussion with GIC.
“But it’s coming to an end, whichever way it’s coming to an end. I’m not sure that it will make everyone happy,” he said.
“It’s taking a huge amount of time of staff at the company. It’s taking a massive amount of time and we’re fed up with it.”
Mr McCullough said the current situation vindicated AWI’s position, when 12 months ago it was the villain for not just getting the money out.
“If we had now, every person in our Indian office would be in jail. So I said then we would operate within the boundaries of the law and we will continue to operate within the boundaries of the law. The Reserve Bank of India said no then that’s that.”
GIC has not responded to Fairfax Agricultural Media.