Synlait Milk said Leon Clement has tendered his resignation as chief executive of the New Zealand-based dairy and infant-formula manufacturer and will leave the company at the end of April.

While a search for Clement’s replacement will begin shortly, Synlait’s co-founder John Penno, who is also a director of the company, will step into the role on an interim basis from 1 May, according to a statement today (12 April).

No reason was given for Clement’s decision to leave Synlait after serving as CEO since September 2018, with the statement adding: “It [the board] also recognises the substantial impact that Covid-19 has had on Synlait and the difficult challenge this would present to any management team”.

Board chair Graeme Milne said: “Leon has been an authentic and transformational leader. He has successfully repositioned Synlait’s purpose, ambition, and strategy to make us a more diversified and sustainable company. On behalf of the board and all staff we wish Leon the very best in his future career and thank him for his energy and dedication to Synlait during his time with us.”
Last November, the Dairyworks business owner warned of the impact coronavirus was having on the business and its profits before launching a NZD200m (then US$137.5m) capital-raising exercise, explaining at the time that the funds would “provide more financial headroom as it navigates Covid-19, which is having an unpredictable impact on the stability of its current and future earnings”.

Synlait issued another financial alert in March when it published first-half results to 31 January. While revenues were up 19% at NZD664.2m, EDITDA fell 29% to NZD47.7m and NPAT slid 76% to NZD6.4m.

Clement explained then: “Our first half was challenging, and we continue to find ourselves in a period of significant uncertainty and volatility as Synlait faces into several headwinds. This is impacting our short-term operations and will impact our full year 2021 financial result.” 

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He said in today’s statement: “It has been a privilege to lead Synlait. It has been an intensive period of change and growth and I am proud of our achievements. Synlait has an amazing team that is making a positive and sustainable impact in the areas we operate.”