Following a number of exits at the senior level, Fortescue boss Andrew Forrest has rejected suggestions of executive dysfunction at the major miner.
When Fortescue’s chief financial officer (CFO) Ian Wells abruptly resigned in early January, eyebrows were raised across the resources sector.
Wells’ departure was the latest in a string of senior resignations at Fortescue – nine executives in two years – a situation the financial community reportedly described as “challenging” and “not ideal”.
“The optics of the short notice and timing of Ian’s departure are challenging, particularly given FMG has stated that Ian has resigned to pursue new opportunities,” Morgans analyst Adrian Prendergast said.
Wells’ resignation came two months after the departure of another of Fortescue’s senior financial executives, Guy Debelle.
But Forrest has said the high level of executive turnover is more like business as usual.
“As far as having high turnover, this was completely in the plan and we don’t consider it high turnover at all,” the Fortescue executive chairman said on Friday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
“When we’re filling positions with different skills, the same responsibility, we need people to retire move on, or change.
“People move on, they retire, or they were bad choices. That happens everywhere.”
Forrest also said the changes represent a natural progression after the departure of former chief executive officer (CEO) Elizabeth Gaines in late 2021.
“I said categorically when we were talking about the future of this company with our brilliant chief executive Elizabeth Gaines, that I would need to bring on 10 to 12 people who would be best in class,” Forrest said.
“And Elizabeth said, ‘You’re not going to be able to do that while I still hold this seat.’ And that was a very unselfish act. And I’ve simply gone ahead and done that.”
While Fortescue initially released a statement saying Wells has resigned to pursue other opportunities, the outgoing CFO shed further light on his departure a few days later by saying he was keen to “spend time with family and friends”.