Tongaat Hulett in search of new group chair after Louis von Zeuner’s resignation

SOUTH AFRICA – Embattled sugar producer Tongaat Hulett has announced the resignation of its chair Louis von Zeuner.

The group cited personal reasons for Von Zeuner’s exit, but said he would remain on the board as a non-executive director until June 30, 2022, as part of a hand-over process.

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He was appointed to the Tongaat Hulett board in December 2018 as part of a new leadership team, following the accounting scandal that rocked the group.

Tongaat Hulett said in a Sens statement that the outgoing head had informed the board he will not be available for re-election as chair at this year’s annual general meeting (AGM) due to a change in personal circumstances.

“On behalf of the board and executive team of Tongaat Hulett, we wish to sincerely thank Mr von Zeuner for his exceptional leadership, guidance and support during the difficult time that Tongaat Hulett faced when he took over the role as chair. We wish him every success in his future endeavours,” said the group’s CEO Gavin Hudson.

Von Zeuner, who is the former deputy CEO of banking giant Absa Group, is currently an independent non-executive director on various other boards including Telkom, Transnet, FirstRand Group Limited and First National Bank (FNB).

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Meanwhile, David Noko, the lead independent nonexecutive director of the group, has been appointed interim chair.

“The board has begun the process to identify a suitable replacement and shareholders will be advised as soon as an appointment has been made,” it added.

According to the sugar producer, Noko was executive vice president at AngloGold Ashanti and served as CEO of Air Chefs and managing director and CEO of De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited.

He is a chartered director, a member of the Institute of Directors and is chair of the University of the Free State’s council. He is also lead advisor at his consultancy company ESG Advisory Limited.

Noko holds a Higher National Diploma in mechanical engineering, a Management Development Programme qualification and a Master of Business Administrations (MBA).

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Tongaat Hulett said the board’s priority is on steering the company with the support of shareholders and lenders to provide a sustainable future.

“We remain committed to the recapitalisation process, which we believe will protect intrinsic shareholder value and create a legacy for the half a million people dependent on the existence of Tongaat Hulett across the Southern Africa Development Community.

“Our engagement with lenders, shareholders and regulators to bring this to fruition continues,” Hudson pointed out.

The group, which is battling a R6.8 billion (US$427m) debt burden from R5.8 billion (US$365m) in 2021, is undergoing a restructuring process and has previously said that it would embark on a R4 billion (US$251m) rights offer to be underwritten by Mauritius-based Magister Investments.

However, it announced last month that the rights offer will now increase to between R4 billion and R5 billion (US$314m) due to its current challenges.

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