After an 11-year tenure on the Qantas board concludes at its Annual General Meeting in October, Leigh Clifford will step down from the national carrier’s board. Qantas announced their ‘Chairman Succession Plan’ on 28 June, saying in a statement Clifford had led its board through one of “most transformative periods in the airline’s 98 year history”. Media reports noted that included the 2011 fleet grounding and the recovery from a $2.8b loss in 2014.
“The national carrier has never been in a stronger position and that’s a credit to the management team and the 30,000 employees that make up the Qantas Group family.” Until recently, Qantas topped Roy Morgan’s most trusted brand rankings, pipped by Aldi for number 1 in 2018.
Richard Goyder AO has taken up the mantle in his stead. No stranger to the boardroom, The West Australian pointed out the Qantas director seemingly had a “crammed dance card” with a number of high profile board chairman positions.
Richard Goyder AO
- Chairman Woodside Petroleum Limited
- Chairperson Australian Football League Commission
- Chairman JDFR Australia
- Chairman the West Australian Symphony Orchestra
- Chairman Channel 7 Telethon Trust
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Goyder joins a small group to hold two chairmanships for ASX 50 companies. That group includes: Rick Holliday-Smith (ASX and Cochlear), Paula Dwyer (Tabcorp and Healthscope), Lindsay Maxsted (Transurban and Westpac) and Gordon Cairns (Woolworths and Origin).
Cruising at altitude?
What will Qantas’s agenda hold for Goyder? Reviewing record profits at its 2018 Half Year results of $976 million before tax, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said domestic offerings had performed but the national carrier faced three key challenges: “higher fuel costs, a competitive domestic market and international capacity growth.”
In that speech, Joyce declared Qantas would return $500m of capital to shareholders (7 per cent dividend) as a push for long term shareholder value. “This additional buy-back is expected to bring the total reduction of shares on issue to 24 per cent since 2015,” Joyce said. In addition to returning nearly a quarter of its capital base to shareholders, Joyce announced a number of capital investments including a new deliver of A320s and a redevelopment of the Sydney International Business Lounge network.
In May, Qantas flagged a record full-year underlying pre-tax profit of between $1.55 billion and $1.60 billion, according to the Herald Sun.
While Goyder is assuming the role with Qantas in a strong financial position, he could oversee industrial disputes with the carrier's workers. Trouble is brewing in the proposed sale of Q Catering to Emirates dnata Catering, pending Australian Competition Consumer and Commission approval. Transport Workers Union NSW said Q Catering’s long standing casual workers were seeking assurance of superannuation benefits and entitlements.
Will the CEO take-off or stay grounded?
Competitor Virgin Australia will lose its CEO John Borghetti by 2020. Signalling no such loss was on the card for Qantas, Joyce told press at the Chairman announcement that he looked forward to working with Goyder for “years to come”. However, observers would not be remiss to be sceptical of his words given Clifford told media in November 2017 neither he nor Joyce were “going anywhere”.
Joyce has been active in a number of public campaigns including 2017’s same-sex marriage plebiscite and joining business calls for reductions to the corporate tax rate. Joyce told SBS news in February that the economy will struggle here compared to the rest of the world.