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Jeffrey Hall takes over as chairman of Kingston Wharves. Says port company will maintain steady course

Published:Wednesday | November 5, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Jeffrey Hall...appointed KWL chairman on October 30. File

A change in the ownership structure of port company Kingston Wharves Limited has led to further changes at the board level, resulting in a split of the chairman and CEO roles both held previously by Grantley Stephenson.

It also cements Jamaica Producers Group's hold on the board.

Last week Jeffrey Hall was appointed non-executive chairman of KWL at the same time as new foreign partner Seaboard Corporation and Jamaica Producers Group nominees took up new seats on the board.

Stephenson remains CEO.

It is the second time in four years that Kingston Wharves has played with the composition of its board.

The company last opted to split the two roles in January 2010. At the time Stephenson had held both positions for six years, since 2004.

Derek Jones, a lawyer for more than four decades, was named chairman in 2010, but he resigned the position in 2012 even while retaining his directorship at the time.

Kingston Wharves announced then that Stephenson would again step in to act as chairman but only for six months. However, he continued to perform in that role up to last week.

Hall has sat on Kingston Wharves' board since 2012 when Jamaica Producers Group, of which he is CEO, became the port company's single largest shareholder. Jamaica Producers upped its stake in the port company in September to 42 per cent when it acquired an additional 11.59 per cent stake from National Commercial Bank Jamaica and its subsidiary NCB Capital Markets, both of which were exiting their investment. Seaboard acquired the other 21 of NCB's stake.

Jamaica Producers has said since that it has no intention of making a play for majority ownership or control of KWL.

POSITIONING TO REALISE AMBITIONS

Hall told Wednesday Business on Monday that the new structure of the board, plus the added global talent whose expertise span infrastructure development, terminal operations and general business leadership, will position KWL to realise its ambitions in the port and logistics field.

The changes, he said, would not disrupt ongoing plans, which includes a US$20m logistics centre for which construction will get under way this month, and a more expansive $70 million programme over the next five years.

He was explicit that no strategic changes were in the works, arising from board and executive changes.

Stephenson in a stock market filing said the split in the roles was in line with international best practices and good corporate governance.

The three NCB/NCB Cap nominees - Karlene Bailey, Stephen Lyn Kee Chow of Pickapeppa Limited and Ramon Pitter - gave up their seats on KWL's board on September 24 as the bank exited the non-core investment. But there were four new appointments on October 30 - Bruce Brecheisen, Robert Scavone, Dorian Valdes and Dr Marshall Hall.

Dr Hall, Jeffrey's father, is a director of Jamaica Producers Group. He ran the company for 25 years when it was primarily a banana-producing and export operation, before passing the baton to his son who has transformed it into a specialty foods and logistics operation.

Brecheisen is an executive vice-president with Seaboard Marine, who "has handled many functions, including finance, strategic planning, risk management, asset procurement and various administrative and operational roles," said the KWL market filing. He has been a director of Port of Miami Crane Management Inc since 2010.

Scavone has international experience in the cargo transportation industry, and provides advisory and management consulting services to a variety of clients. He is also a senior adviser to Mercator International LLC, a transport and logistics consulting group.

Valdes serves as senior client program manager for CB&I Environmental & Infrastructure and is a "professional engineer who worked for Miami-Dade County for more than 20 years.

"As chief executive officer of Kingston Wharves, I am satisfied that these changes will allow our executive leadership team to maintain its focus on the development of the business in line with our ambitious expansion plan," Stephenson said.

The other board members are: Kim Clarke, president of the Shipping Association of Jamaica (SAJ) and managing director of the Maritime and Transport Group of Companies; Alvin Henry, an industrial relations consultant to SAJ; Harriat Maragh, chairman and CEO of Lannaman & Morris Shipping Limited; Kathleen Moss, a management consultant and chartered business valuator with Sierra Associates; and Charles Johnston, chairman and managing director of Jamaica Fruit and Shipping Company Limited. Johnston is also chairman of Jamaica Producers and Moss Solomon is also a director on that board.

Seaboard, a global shipping company, is now the second largest shareholder in KWL, ahead of Shipping Association of Jamaica Property Limited.

Shareholders with 20 per cent ownership in Kingston Wharves are entitled to name three directors to the board.

The port company is valued at $17 billion by assets. Last year the company handled more than 295,000 container moves and generated a record revenue of $4 billion.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com