From beer man to milk man: Murray Goulburn gets Ari Mervis as its new chief for $1.5m

Ari Mervis will start as Murray Goulburn CEO on February 13, 2017. Photo: suppliedAfter a turbulent 2016 Australia’s biggest dairy processor Murray Goulburn has appointed Ari Mervis, a former top brewery executive, as its new CEO on an annual package of $1.5 million.

The employment agreement includes potential short-term and long-term incentive payments on top of fixed remuneration and are performance-based.

The appointment comes after a comprehensive international search, which finished with the choice of someone who lives in Melbourne.

Most recently Mr Mervis was the CEO of Carlton and United Breweries in Melbourne, and the managing director of brewing giant SABMiller in the Asia Pacific region.

His switch to the dairy industry comes after a 27-year career with SABMiller, where he gained vast experience in the beer, soft drinks and fruit juice categories.

Mr Mervis’ major challenges will be to rebuild relationships with Murray Goulburn’s large number of dairy farmers who supply milk to the co-operative, as well as relationships with the wider dairy industry.

Murray Goulburn burnt relationships with its dairy farmers, some of them carrying large debts, when it announced it would slash payments to farmers for their milk.

In a tumultuous day in April, it also announced a profit downgrade, and revealed that its then CEO, as well as its then chief financial officer would step down.

Because of the turmoil some dairy farmers dumped Murray Goulburn and supplied other processors with milk, while some launched stinging criticism of MG.

In an interview with Fairfax Media before he commences as Murray Goulburn CEO and managing director in February 2017, Mr Mervis said he would work to build relationships of trust, confidence and mutual respect with dairy farmers.

“It is quite clear that we do need to stabilise the supplier base, we need to ensure that there is still confidence in the co-op of our suppliers particularly, but all stakeholders,” he said.

“We need to reinvigorate that confidence and that trust and we need to rebuild what is a tremendous and iconic Australian entity.”

Asked how he would rebuild relationships with dairy farmers, he said: “I think the first one is get out and about and meet them, and hear from them, to listen to them.

“And my intention very much in the first 100 days is to actively engage as many of the stakeholders as we can. Then I can hear from them and they can meet me and hopefully what they’ll see is that they’ll find someone who is open, honest and transparent.”

Announcing the appointment of Mr Mervis, Murray Goulburn chairman Philip Tracy said the board wanted a leader with extensive operations and consumer goods experience.

“After a comprehensive international search, the board unanimously agreed that Ari was the ideal choice to lead MG at this critical juncture in its history,” he said. “We are delighted to have secured a candidate with a proven track record of delivering results and operational success across multiple geographies.”

Mr Mervis has lived in Melbourne with his wife and three children since 2011. He has been a non-executive director of the Melbourne Business School since 2012.

Mr Tracy also paid tribute to interim CEO David Mallinson, who he said led MG “with conviction and discipline during an exceptionally challenging period”.

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