BOARD SHAKE-UP TAKES OUT SURFSTITCH FOUNDER

Written on the 6 December 2016 by Nick Nichols

BOARD SHAKE-UP TAKES OUT SURFSTITCH FOUNDER ONLINE actionwear retailer SurfStitch Group (ASX: SRF) has announced a major board shake-up in a move that effectively strips executive influence from remaining company co-founder Lex Pedersen.

Pedersen, along with Surfdome founder Justin Stone, will resign as executive directors of SurfStitch at the end of December as the struggling Gold Coast-based company is likely to record another bottom-line loss in FY17.

The board shake-up has also taken out non-executive directors Stephen Goddard, the chairman of the audit committee, and Jane Huxley who will stand down from the board at the end of December.

SurfStitch has tempered the evictions with news that it is bringing new blood to the company by appointing Harry Hodge (pictured), the founder and long-time chairman of Quiksilver Europe, as non-executive director.

Hodge, a former executive director of NYSE-listed Quiksilver, Inc, has more than 30 years' experience in SurfStitch's key market sectors of apparel, board sports and fashion.

He also is deputy chairman of Surfing New South Wales and a former director of SurfAID International and the European Board Sports Association, EuroSima.

"Harry has exceptional experience in the retail sector, with a proven ability to develop strategies and deliver growth in both retail and wholesale businesses," says SurfStitch chairman Sam Weiss.

"As CEO and executive chairman of Quiksilver Europe, he played a pivotal role in growing the brand in Europe from a $1 million a year business in 1984 to a $500 million business in 2004.

"He has led a number of mergers and acquisitions and IPO processes, and has implemented strong corporate governance and risk management systems. Harry's experience will be invaluable to the board as it continues with the strategic review of SurfStitch."

SurfStitch has been battling on a number of fronts this year. Apart from posting a $154.7 million loss in FY16, and suffering a major share wipeout in the process, it is also facing legal action from a major shareholder over a soured business deal.

Weiss says the board shake-up is part of the 'renewal process' for SurfStitch.

Although the board will be much smaller, he says the company is seeking to add new non-executive directors with the skills needed to turn the company around.

Among the priorities is to find a replacement for Goddard as chairman of the audit committee.

Despite the departure of Pedersen and Stone from the board, both will retain senior roles within the company. Stone was appointed European head of SurfStitch after his company Surfdome was acquired by SurfStitch in 2014.

Both he and Pedersen were appointed joint CEOs and managing directors of SurfStitch in March.

This came a week after the unexpected departure of former CEO Justin Cameron, who co-founded SurfStitch with Pedersen in 2008.

Pedersen and Stone were later replaced in the top job by Mike Sonand who has since undertaken a major cost-cutting program to stem the company's financial bleeding.

Author: Nick Nichols

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