Ahmed Fahour told staff to 'keep searching'. Photo: Glenn Hunt
Australia Post boss Ahmed Fahour has stepped down as chairman and a director of surfwear company Rip Curl, giving the former banker more time to ponder the possible $4 billion privatisation of the mail carrier as the federal government frantically searches for funds to repair its budget bottom line.
In a letter sent to Rip Curl staff, and obtained by BusinessDay, Mr Fahour said he had enjoyed his 10 years with the Torquay-based surf outfitter but that good corporate governance and his other significant business commitments meant it was the right time ''to move on''.
''In the corporate world, a term of 10 years by an independent director/chairman is generally considered a maximum under good corporate governance rules.''
Mr Fahour said he would remain a shareholder in the privately owned Rip Curl, and it is believed his personal stake is worth about $2.5 million.
Rip Curl, which is controlled by founders Doug Warbrick and Brian Singer who jointly own 72 per cent of the company, last year abandoned a planned $400 million sale due to tough market conditions that crimped earnings. This led to a restructuring that has recently returned the surfwear group to profitability.
''With the onset of the global financial crisis, recent years have proven challenging, but I am proud of having helped the company through this period and am very pleased with the state of the business and its standing at this point,'' Mr Fahour said in his letter to staff.
Rip Curl posted an after-tax profit of $14.12 million for fiscal 2013 and has certainly fared better than rivals such as Billabong, which has had billions of dollars in losses and been taken over by private equity.
''Unlike most of our competitors, we have come through the GFC in a strong position, we have shored up our financial base (without having to resort to dilutive or costly and restrictive measures) and are currently achieving excellent results,'' Mr Fahour wrote.
''There is an experienced, solid and committed management team in place to take advantage of our current strong brand position and solid financial platform.''
He also paid respect to Rip Curl's two founders and former chairman, the late James Strong.
''I am grateful to the founders who back in 2004 along with my good friend, former chairman the late James Strong gave me an opportunity to learn and start my own search with Rip Curl.''
In September last year Mr Warbrick and Mr Singer stepped down from the global retail brand, ending a 44-year association with the group that had started in a garage and on a pre-World War II sewing machine.
Mr Fahour, a one-time aspirant for the top job at National Australia Bank, also said he would be available for support and help to remaining Rip Curl directors and senior managers. He ended his letter ''kindest regards and keep searching''.
With his corporate diary now a little more flexible Mr Fahour will have more time to guide continued restructuring of Australia Post and deal with politicians and advisers tinkering with the idea of privatising the government entity.