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Board light-on for experience

AS Western Power tries to recover from its darkest hour and moves toward a possible break-up, the utility finds itself with a very inexperienced board of directors.

Five of the seven directors have been on the board for one year or less and the new chief executive has no direct experience in the energy industry.

The longest serving board member is Jenny Seabrook, a director of corporate advisory firm Gresham Partners, who has been a director for two and a half years.

Western Power’s new chairman, Neil Hamilton, has been a director since April 2002, making him a relative veteran.

Former union leader and industrial relations commissioner John (JJ) O’Connor joined the board last month, along with Town of Kwinana chief executive Charlotte Stockwell.

WA Tourism Commission chairman Alan Mulgrew and BankWest general counsel and company secretary Sue Wilson joined the board last August, while Sydney-based investment banker Dr Paul Moy joined 12 months ago.

Newly appointed chief executive Harvey Collins comes from a finance background.

“The board was looking for someone who would bring corporate governance, corporate management and corporate leadership skills to Western Power,” he told WA Business News.

“It doesn’t seem unusual to me.

“There are plenty of companies with generalist managers who have technical experts behind them.”

The speed of Mr Collins’ appointment was remarkable.

Former chairman Malcolm Macpherson resigned last Thursday, followed swiftly by former managing director Stephen van der Mye, who lasted only nine months.

On Friday afternoon, Mr Hamilton said the board was still unsure about whether it would bring in an external chief executive.

Twenty-four hours later, the board had decided Mr Collins fitted the bill and his appointment was announced on Sunday.

Mr Collins role will be to ensure the overhaul of demand management, communications and crisis management is given “instant momentum”.

In recognition of Mr Collins’ lack of technical expertise, the board promoted Doug Aberle to the newly created position of chief operating officer, where he will oversee the day-to-day management of Western Power’s operations.

 

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