Kerry Co-op has announced that Mundy Hayes has taken the decision to step down as its chair at the December co-op board meeting.
A statement from a spokesperson suggests that Hayes will remain as a director for the next 12 months. Elections to the Co-op's board of directors are ongoing.
The significance of this move by Hayes is that Kerry Co-op and Kerry Group plc are at a critical juncture in the potential sale of the Kerry Group dairy business to the farmers (Kerry co-op). Success
The chair of the co-op board will be critical to the success or otherwise of any potential deal and will be instrumental in making a deal happen.
There has been a lot of speculation among milk suppliers in Kerry for the last few weeks that the planned election for the chair in December was going to see a standoff between those Kerry co-op directors who support a potential deal and those who support the status quo.
The Irish Farmers Journal understands that Hayes was supporting the run of Willie Slattery to the co-op board, but that fell through at the last minute last week as the vote was postponed for "technical" reasons.
Subsequently, we understand, John O’Sullivan, who was running against Slattery, was deemed elected to the board.
Dairy farmers John Connors, John O’Sullivan, Shane Wall and Eoghan McCarthy have all been elected to the co-op board in the last two weeks with further elections ongoing this week. Some close observers say the balance of power in the co-op board was shifting away from Hayes, as the new directors take up positions.
Others suggest board ineligibility on technical rules is the main reason for Hayes stepping down now. We have pressed the spokespersons on the detail, but have received no answers yet.
No declarations have yet been made for the now upcoming vacancy in the chair.
However, the speculation in advance of this move by Hayes was that three board members – outgoing chair Mundy Hayes, Denis Carroll and potentially recently elected James Tangney – were going to contest the chair at the December board meeting.
Kerry co-op is a holding company that manages the huge wealth of the co-op shareholding in Kerry Group plc.
Kerry Co-op directors have no duties on setting milk price as Kerry Group controls the dairy processing assets of Kerry milk suppliers.
The long-running saga of selling the dairy processing business to the farmers (Kerry Co-op) is on hold for the moment as differences of opinion and value, coupled with a poor relationship between the co-op and the plc, prevent any development of a strategic long-term vision.
Commenting, Mundy Hayes said: “I am happy that it is the right decision for both the Co-Op and me personally at this time. After five years at the helm, leading the board of the Co-Op in what has been a hugely challenging period, I feel now is the right and appropriate time for change and a fresh perspective.
"While the role has been challenging and demanding, it has equally been an enriching one. Working with my board colleagues and our CEO, our sole focus has been to deliver for our milk suppliers and shareholders, and this I am proud to say has consistently been the case under my tenure as chairman.
"It has been a huge privilege to lead this fine organisation. I will remain an active director of the board for the coming 12 months and will be available to ensure a smooth transition. I wish the Co-Op, my board colleagues, our CEO and my successor the very best for the future.”