Founder faces expulsion in company row
Sylvia Tulloch. Photo: Glen McCurtayne
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been hauled into an unseemly boardroom struggle in a Queanbeyan-based company she visited in October last year.
Co-founder of solar technology company Dyesol Sylvia Tulloch said her four fellow directors were unavailable to welcome Ms Gillard in October when the Prime Minister visited to support a clean energy future.
The scientist who moved to a little farm at Burra with her husband, Gavin, and established the solar enterprise that later acquired a market capitalisation of $150 million, has fallen out with directors.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard tours the Dyesol Solar Design Factory with Dr Yanek Hebting, Materials Research and Development Manager, in Queanbeyan. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen / Fairfax
They are recommending shareholders not re-elect Mrs Tulloch at Dyesol's annual general meeting on November 30, because of an outstanding $300,000 loan.
Chairman Richard Caldwell said claims about Ms Gillard were rubbish.
''It would have been great to meet the PM. We'd all be honoured to. I think I was overseas at the time. [Mrs Tulloch] is the local director, it was sensible for her to meet her.''
Dyesol listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in 2005 on its way to commercialising a Swiss scientist's creation of artificial photosynthesis which is now sought by major companies worldwide.
Still in a fund raising stage, the company has been loaning money to Tulloch Management Pty Ltd, from which the Tullochs have drawn to repay debts accumulated while establishing the enterprise.
Former Australian Capital Tourism Corporation chief Ross MacDiarmid was the Australian chief executive at Queanbeyan before moving on to his current role as the Australian Mint chief executive.
Mr Caldwell said disagreement with the Tullochs came to a head earlier this year when the loan was not repaid.
He said the Tullochs had been paid $500,000 per annum since the company had listed.
In more recent years Dyesol's market capital of $30 million had slumped from $150 million when the solar industry plummeted, coinciding with governments withdrawing feed in tariffs.
''Investors have run for the door in the absence of any certainty.
''It also presents opportunities because the companies that survive these sorts of rationalisation periods usually emerge very strongly and quite often go on to re-establish their value for shareholders.''
Mrs Tulloch said it was conventional wisdom for founders to step back to let companies grow, but just as Steve Jobs had shown with Apple, when disaster followed it was appropriate to return.
But instead of accepting her suggestions, Mrs Tulloch said: ''I sit in a boardroom, I've got four suits shouting at me.''
The Tullochs borrowed from Dyesol rather than selling big parcels of shares and repaid the loans, but on the last occasion, were not given an extension, even though they had personally supported the whole project from 2000 to 2004.
Mrs Tulloch said when they wanted to sell shares worth $800,000 the share price was 70 to 80 cents. (This week Dyesol is trading at 14 to 15 cents).
''Dyesol is my life's work and these people have taken it to where it is today.''
John Thistleton is a Dyesol shareholder.