Ketso Gordhan hits back at PPC board

2014-11-17 10:47

Former PPC boss Ketso Gordhan has hired international public relations firm Brunswick to hit back at the cement producer’s decision to place full-page advertisements, which place him in a bad light, in newspapers.

In a statement released by the company today, Gordhan – who had until now done his own public relations – said the PPC board’s actions were disappointing, especially since it had the opportunity to raise the matter with shareholders at its annual results announcement tomorrow.

The board had placed advertisements stating that Gordhan – who had resigned in September in protest at the board’s refusal to back him in firing chief financial officer Tryphosa Ramano but later tried to take back his resignation – had petty reasons for wanting Ramano out.

These included that she had asked tough questions about a loan agreement he had verbally agreed to with a potential funder, had a bigger office than him, wanted reserved parking and refused to participate in a voluntary executive pay-cut scheme.

“Instead of the board communicating to shareholders why it is the best steward of shareholders’ interests, it is spending money on misrepresenting and trivialising my reasons for resigning from PPC,” said Gordhan today.

Earlier this month, PPC gave in to demands from shareholders Foord Asset Management and Visio Capital for a special general meeting to vote on removing the entire board and replacing it with a new one. Gordhan is among the people nominated for the new board.

“I would have thought a board that is aware of its duty would see the shareholders’ meeting on December 8 as an opportunity to focus on convincing shareholders that, notwithstanding creating a leadership vacuum that wiped R3 billion off the company’s market capitalisation, this is the best possible board to deliver on PPC’s Africa strategy, which is a necessity for creating shareholder value,” said Gordhan.

And elaborating on the “petty reasons” PPC said he gave as justification for Ramano’s removal, Gordhan said:

» PPC had negotiated a lucrative funding deal to bolster its balance sheet as part of its African expansion plan. But a “senior finance executive” [Ramano] undermined the funding deal to such an extent that the funders wanted to terminate all interactions with PPC.

» The executive in question created a culture of fear and recrimination among the finance team and, as a consequence of her management style, created a work environment that was so dysfunctional it became a hindrance to the teams that were putting together the Africa expansion projects.

» He pushed for an open-plan office structure to improve executive accessibility and to bring down head office costs, but the executive in question refused to give up her office.

“I urge shareholders to ask the difficult questions and do what’s best for their company by putting in place a board that has the experience, stewardship and support of management and employees to drive a complex strategy and unlock the significant value within PPC,” said Gordhan.

“A board that is capable of converting its playpen back into a boardroom.”

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