06/07/2015 - 16:45

Smooth transition for GMA Garnet

06/07/2015 - 16:45

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Smooth transition for GMA Garnet
POLISHED CAREER: Torsten Ketelsen has driven GMA Garnet to become the dominant global player in garnet abrasives. Photo: Attila Csaszar

The leadership team is changing at one of Western Australia’s quiet business success stories, but the strategy remains firmly on track.

After nearly 30 years at the helm of the world’s largest garnet abrasive supplier, GMA Garnet group managing director Torsten Ketelsen is welcoming some fresh faces to his side.

Among them are former Wesfarmers industrial division boss Keith Gordon, who is joining the board as chairman, and former Emeco Group chief financial officer Stephen Gobby as group chief executive officer.

Mr Gordon also served as chief executive officer at Emeco and is now a director of Hays Group, while Mr Gobby has worked at KPMG and Alinta.

Mr Ketelsen, who will remain heavily involved, said the moves would help secure longevity in the business, which he partly owns in conjunction with European family owned business Jebsen & Jessen Group.

The group, which has operated for more than a century, will likely increase its shareholding over time and take it into the next generation.

Other changes include former EY M&A executive Grant Cox, who will take on the role of chief financial officer, and Dean Schwarz promoted as general manager global production.

Mr Schwarz will relocate to the US for 12 months.

The US is a key part of the company’s future plans; it currently operates a mine in Montana and has a large distribution network.

The expanded team has an impressive challenge – to double the value of the business in a five-year period, said Mr Ketelsen, who is also Germany’s honorary consul.

Further opportunities will be in Asia, where the company’s product could be in demand as infrastructure is built and in need of maintenance.

Hidden gem

Mr Ketelsen’s recent nomination for EY Entrepreneur of the year 2015 is recognition for his decades of relatively low profile work to drive the garnet business.

He led an international expansion of the garnet industry, a mineral previously in comparatively low demand.

In recent decades, however, it has largely replaced silica sand in sand blasting as a safer, more efficient option. The company moved up the supply chain from distributer in 2001 when it acquired half of a large garnet mine, near Geraldton, which had been the major source of its mineral.

The remaining half was purchased four years later, securing the company’s supply, estimated to be 40 per cent of the more than $200 million global market.

Mr Ketelsen said vertical integration was an important strength of the company, which now controlled the value chain from mine to user.

An additional innovation, garnet recycling, means GMA can reprocess and reuse the product after its initial use.

Mr Ketelsen said an entrepreneur should start with a good plan.

But implementation would be 95 per cent of success, and a strong team was needed.

“One of big driving forces (for the company’s success) is the fact that as a private company you can maintain much more of an entrepreneurial spirit,” Mr Ketelsen said

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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