TOP 200 : QBE Chairperson of the Year – John Palmer

John Palmer’s reputation as an outstanding director and chairman of the board is well entrenched. He was voted QBE Insurance Chairperson of the Year in 2007 and wins the accolade again this year because of his outstanding leadership of Air New Zealand and Solid Energy in particular.
As this magazine has said before, Palmer’s record of accepting and dealing to difficult assignments earns him the respect of his peers and the market in general. He is leader who knows how to identify and appoint top-shelf managers and how to empower them to deliver on the strategy he forges with his board and executive team.
Palmer is hard-working team player who has again shown that in both Air New Zealand and Solid Energy he has the individual management competency at the top to foot it with the best in the world. He is transformational chair, capable of taking organisations from difficult situations through to positions from which they can rally and regroup for the future.
Air New Zealand had particularly difficult year. With Palmer’s support, the company’s chief executive was able to manage and resolve testing personal issues and simultaneously prepare the airline for new and re-configured business opportunities.
Solid Energy fared extraordinarily well, despite slump in coal prices and demand for half the year. Palmer says he does not expect things to get much easier for either company next year and has warned shareholders accordingly.
John Palmer is thoroughly professional chairman and role model for best practice governance. His personal contribution to business has been recognised in various ways, including being made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 1999 for services to the New Zealand kiwifruit industry.

JUDGES COMMENTS
Winner : John Palmer
Chairperson of Air New Zealand & Solid Energy

John Palmer has been finalist in the QBE Insurance Chairperson of the Year three times. He won it in 2007. And he has won the title again this year because, as the judges put it, he is an outstanding chairman with two of the toughest enterprises in the country to govern under his direction – Air New Zealand and Solid Energy. In these companies he has two very effective chief executives with whom he works in excellent harmony to produce top performance results. John Palmer’s impressive record for tackling challenging tasks and delivering outcomes that work for all stakeholders cannot be ignored. He is, as has been said before, an exemplar of best governance practice and his success shows that this approach works.

Finalist : Graeme Hawkins
Chairperson of Southern Cross Healthcare group & Watercare Services

Graeme Hawkins is seasoned company director with reputation for fairness and effectiveness. He works well with his chief executives and ensures, therefore, that they deliver expected outcomes. He is personable and astute director and chair who is highly regarded by his peers. He comes complete with successful background of hands-on and high-level management experience. One of New Zealand’s most competent company directors and chairmen.

Finalist : Michael Stiassny
Chairperson of Vector Energy & New Zealand Racing Board

Michael Stiassny is an unquestionably controversial personality. He has, however, proven to be strong and focused leader of the organisations he chairs. He is forthright and confident and increasingly shows an ability to work with his management team and with his shareholders. His intellectual grasp of complex situations contributes greatly to his ability to lead from the front. He is strong on strategy and puts time and considerable personal effort into understanding the issues that confront the enterprises he chairs.

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