Michael Chaney’s return to Wesfarmers confirms his standing as the most influential company director in WA. Click through to see our listing of the 12 Most Influential company directors in WA.
What do you do when you’ve turned 65 and achieved everything imaginable in your business career?
If you are Michael Chaney, you take on a new role.
The man dubbed ‘Saint Michael’ because of his outstanding track record as managing director of Wesfarmers will be returning to the Perth conglomerate in June as chairman-elect.
He told Business News he had no plans to slow down.
“I enjoy it too much,” Mr Chaney said, adding that he was amused recently to read he was approaching the twilight of his career.
“I feel very energetic,” he said. “I’ll continue until I find that it’s not stimulating.”
“I’ve never met anyone who thought that returning after 10 years was a problem,” Mr Chaney said.
His influence on the national stage is indicated by several notable advisory roles.
Mr Chaney is one of 12 members, and the only Western Australian, on the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council, which was established in late 2013.
Mr Chaney is one of five business representatives on the Commonwealth Science Council, which had its first meeting last November.
A recent addition to his resume was joining the Australia-Germany Advisory Group, which Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced in April, after the idea emerged from discussions with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at last year’s G20 summit.
Mr Chaney said he was invited by the prime minister to take these roles, but none of them signalled a strategic shift in his career.
“You get involved where you think you can make a difference,” he said.
During that period, he also spent 10 years as a director of BHP (later BHP Billiton).
Over the past decade, his main roles have been chairing National Australia Bank and Woodside. He plans to retire from NAB at its annual general meeting later this year and expects to retire from Woodside when his term expires in 2017.
The Wesfarmers board includes Tony Howarth, who is one of WA’s most respected directors, former Alcoa of Australia boss Wayne Osborn, and Diane Smith-Gander, who has been a vocal advocate for getting more women into boardrooms.
She will find a supportive chairman in Mr Chaney, who spoke this month at the Australian launch of international diversity movement, 30% Club.
Like the Australian Institute of Company Directors, it is aiming to achieve 30 per cent female representation on S&P/ASX 200 boards by 2018.
Wesfarmers is one of only four WA companies, along with Fortescue Metals Group, Navitas and Liquefied Natural Gas, to already meet the 30 per cent figure.
Woodside falls short, with two women on its 10-member board.
That puts it ahead of many others; among the 20 WA companies in the S&P/ASX 200 index, women fill 15.7 per cent of board positions.
Other recent appointments include Fiona Harris becoming chair of Toro Energy and former Chevron executive Colin Beckett becoming chair of both Western Power and Perth Airport.