GraceKennedy creates new post for Wehby - Returns Oct 5 as group COO, Burton, Campbell answerable to him

Published: Sunday | April 12, 2009

Senator Don Wehby - File

GraceKennedy Limited is already rolling out the welcoming mat for Don Wehby, creating a special position for the Senator that reaffirms his status as second in command and chief lieutenant to Douglas Orane.

On Thursday, a stock market notice proclaimed that Wehby would return to the company October 5 in a new job - Group Chief Operating Officer - and that divisional heads Courtney Campbell and Erwin Burton would report directly to him.

Shift in power

The two heads - who run GK Investments and GK Foods, respectively - currently report to chief executive officer and chairman Orane; now their path to Orane will be through Wehby, indicating a clear shift in the power base and a reshaping of the reporting structure.

The senator will also rejoin the company's powerful club - the executive council - growing the number to eight.

"We are happy he is coming back at this time in which we need all the talent in order to chart GK course for the future," Orane said.

"He will be a greater asset to the company given his experiences."

The new role created adds a new layer to the group organisational structure, suggesting that Wehby could well assume some of the tasks now handled by Orane.

But the CEO said that remains under consideration.

More productive group

"At this time, we are still working out the details as to how functions of the executive committee will be handled to make the group as productive as possible."

Orane also refused to be drawn on what the current developments might mean for succession in Grace-Kennedy - a highly pro-fitable conglomerate with an 87-year history in the business of food, and more recently financial services, Wehby's forte - despite the special position created for the Senator.

"All senior management positions have a succession plan in place and for each there is at least two persons selected."

That has been Orane's standard comment to the media whenever the question of who succeeds him arises.

"Persons who have been selected go through a structured programme - training, coaching, working on special projects, public service among others - to improve their skills so that at a point they will be able to take on greater responsibility," he added.

"It makes us a much stronger company if we can promote from within."

Wehby is winding down a two-year assignment with the Bruce Golding administration in the finance ministry. He departs National Heroes Circle at the end of July.

Previous appointment

When he left to take up the assignment with the government, Wehby was deputy group CEO and CEO of GK Investments.

He was initially on secondment to the finance ministry as minister without portfolio, but resigned from GraceKennedy after protests about conflict of interest.

Campbell was appointed to his old job at GK Investment just months ago, raising questions for the first time about whether Wehby might not ascend to the top slot at Orane's carefully guarded date of departure.

Much of that uncertainty would now have abated.

The senator, whom Sunday Business was unable to reach for comment, has now essentially been re-employed by GraceKennedy in a position created just for him.