The a2 Milk Company CEO Jayne Hrdlicka said the job "required more travel than I had anticipated when I joined the company". She has resigned after 18 months.

By A2 Milk Company CEO Jayne Hrdlicka resigns

Posted on December 9, 2019

The a2 Milk Company Managing Director and CEO Jayne Hrdlicka has resigned, the New Zealand company announced this morning (local time).

Former CEO Geoff Babidge has stepped in as interim CEO commencing immediately, The a2 Milk Company said.

Shares in The a2 Milk Company fell by 7.7% in the first few minutes of trading after the shock announcement of Jayne Hrdlicka‘s departure. By 10.05am the stock was trading at NZ$14, down NZ$1.17 from Friday’s close, knocking about NZ$850 million off the company’s market capitalisation.

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Hrdlicka said the “reality” had hit home that over the next three to five years the CEO would need to be ever-present in the company’s main markets of China and the US. That combined with running a New Zealand company based in Australia meant it would be too difficult to manage “whilst also taking into account the health and wellness priorities of my family and me,” she explained in a statement.

Hrdlicka said the job “required more travel than I had anticipated when I joined the company”.

A2 Milk chairman David Hearn said there were no changes to profit forecasts made at last month’s annual general meeting and a global search was underway for a permanent chief executive.

Hearn said he hoped to make an appointment by the end of 2019, early 2020, The Financial Review reported.

Hrdlicka had been at the helm of the company for 18 months. She was one of 15 female CEOs of the ASX 300: Marnie Baker, Bendigo & Adelaide Bank CEO; Alison Mary Watkins, CEO of Coca-Cola Amatil; Kate McKenzie, CEO of Chorus Limited; Julie Coates, CSR Limited CEO; Catherine Norman, CEO of FAR Limited; Elizabeth Gaines, Fortescue Metals CEO; Katie Page-Harvey, CEO of Harvey Norman; Jeanne Johns, CEO of Incitec Pivot; Amanda Lacaze, Lynas Corporation CEO; Sue Lloyd-Hurwitz, CEO of Mirvac Group; Shemara Wikramanayake, CEO and Managing director of Macquarie Bank; Linda Mellors, CEO of aged care provider Regis Healthcare; Dr Jackie Fairley, CEO of Starpharma Holdings Ltd, and Susan Channon, CEO of Virtus Health.

Prior to joining a2 Milk, Hrdlicka was CEO of the Jetstar Group, a subsidiary of Qantas, having previously led the business transformation of Qantas Airlines from 2010 to 2012. Jayne also served as a Non-Executive Director of Woolworths Limited from 2010 to 2016.

Hearn said the appointment of Babidge would ensure all the current strategies being pursued by a2 Milk would be followed through on.

“I recognise the positive changes that Jayne has brought to the business and will continue to pursue the strategies and plans developed by management and agreed by the board,” Babidge said.

Hearn also said that the management of the China business would be strengthened during the period of Babidge’s temporary tenure by having A2 Milk’s China-based non-executive director Jesse Wu having “direct oversight” of the China business.

A2 Milk re-affirmed that the first half total revenue was expected to be in the range of AU$780 million to AU$800 million, and that the new margin forecasts made on November 19 were still intact.