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Weightman 'sacrificed' at Cromwell ahead of another boardroom cull

Business

Cromwell’s managing director and founder Paul Weightman has put up the white flag and announced his retirement as Singapore’s ARA’s raid on the company gathers pace.

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The company, which has $11.5 billion under management, has been brawling with its biggest shareholder for several years culminating in a shareholder meeting last month when the chair and two directors were voted out.

Three more directors face a similar outcome at an extraordinary general meeting in February despite ARA’s claims that it was not after control of the company.

ARA successfully got Gary Weiss and Joe Gersch appointed to the board earlier this year as Weightman complained ARA was getting control by stealth. ARA also had the backing of major shareholder Gordon Tang.

Weightman must have seen the writing on the wall after previous criticism from ARA about the company’s strategy and his remuneration, but there had been speculation he would go in a sacrifice to save the other three directors.

Cromwell CFO Michael Wilde has been appointed acting chief executive effective January 1, but how long he holds the position is unknown with ARA likely to appoint its own executive, possibly David Blight, who was previously a Cromwell director.

Cromwell chair Jane Tongs said Weightman was one of the original founders of the business back in 1998 and his track record, as one of the longest serving chief executives of an ASX listed entity, was “unparalleled”.

“On behalf of the Cromwell board and Cromwell securityholders, I would like to acknowledge his longstanding contribution and thank him for his dedication and hard work over more than two decades,” she added.

Weightman said he had always sought to stay true to the company’s purpose ‘that we are here to look after people’.

“This has been tested as much this year by COVID-19 as it was back in 1998 when we saw an opportunity to start-up a real estate business that put people first,” Weightman said.

“I’m proud that Cromwell has come through the pandemic and is continuing to operate successfully, particularly with the majority of its people working from home for most of the year.

“It has been an honour and a privilege to have been CEO of a business that has delivered such strong returns over such a long timeframe. I would like to thank my fellow Directors, past and present, and everyone who has participated in the Cromwell journey over the last 22 years,” he added.

Incoming acting CEO Michael Wilde said he had “the clear support of the Cromwell board and Cromwell securityholders”.

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