Don Voelte. Photo: Rob Homer
Don Voelte has emerged as Kerry Stokes' "Mr Fix It" – called in to work in the Seven empire's trouble spots.
Having just announced he is moving on from Seven West Media, Voelte has been installed in Stokes' top-listed company, Seven Group Holdings, and in doing so has replaced long-term lieutenant Peter Gammell.
Word started to leak out a few weeks ago that Gammell was not happy with Stokes' son Ryan getting more responsibility within Seven Group.
So it's particularly interesting that Ryan is not being elevated to the top job. The market will assume that he will ultimately take over from Voelte.
If history provides any indication of the future, Voelte will not be long for this job. He stayed a year at Seven West Media.
The exact nature of his brief is not clear. At Seven West he had two duties. The first was to vet the internal candidates to replace him and make recommendations to Stokes (who of course would be making the decision).
The second was to clean up the store – take some costs out of the business, reduce the headcount and put some commercial processes into place.
He was to be the tough man who could make unpopular decisions and then leave.
Given Seven Group Holdings is more an investment company than an operating company, Voelte might be charged with also whipping the portfolio into shape.
The company has already appointed advisers to look at options for the Coates Hire business which it holds in joint venture with private equity firm Carlyle.
But the more urgent issue for Voelte to address is the dramatic demise in fortunes of the mining services industry of which Seven Group's Caterpillar is a part.
A recent report from a research team at CLSA said that Caterpillar's new sales are set to fall 43 per cent over the next year thanks to an oversupplied market for mining equipment.
It said that a number of suppliers are set to exit the industry in the near term, which gives mining companies the opportunity to get cheaper equipment from what in effect will be "closing down sales".
The mining services industry was on a growth trajectory back in 2010 when Stokes sold his private company into his listed entity. Until recently WesTrac, which houses Seven's Caterpillar franchises, was operating with very healthy margins but these are also said to be moving into a decline.