A ‘new version’ of Vik Bansal arrives as CEO of Boral

Boral shares rose 14 percent to $3.26 at 2:45 p.m. as investors cheered the transition. They traded at $7 in mid-August last year. Boral is 70 percent owned by billionaire Kerry Stokes and his family through Seven Group Holdings after a takeover bid last year.

The commotion at the top comes as profits plummet at the concrete and asphalt group as the company prepares to cut hundreds of jobs by June 30 under a program called Project Next, in which PwC has been brought in to help with staff reductions.

InfraBuild is the best performing company in the global GFG Alliance empire owned by: Mr Gupta, which is still trying to complete a $6 billion refinancing after the collapse of Greensill Capital.

Mr Bansal said the global instability and uncertainty at GFG hadn’t affected his decision, rather the opportunity to run a large ASX-listed company again.

“It’s the cut and the thrust and the responsibility,” he said.

Mr Bansal was the chief executive of waste group Cleanaway for six years before leaving under controversial circumstances. He resigned in January last year in a “mutually agreed” decision with the board of directors following a series of allegations about a “culture of bullying and harassment” under his leadership.

Mr. Bansal said he learned from that experience, but didn’t back down from the way he built a high-performance culture at Cleanaway.

“You learn, and then you become a better leader,” he said. “You can’t turn a business around without a positive culture”.

He didn’t want to anticipate how he would lead Boral differently from Mr. Todorcevski. “It would be unfair for a CEO to come up with a preconceived idea.”

Mr Stokes said Boral needed a new style of leadership for the company’s next phase by the end of the year as it looked to improve its operating performance after the major asset sale offshore.

“We are not happy with the profit results, I don’t think anyone is,” he said on Wednesday.

Mr Stokes said Mr Bansal’s track record of increasing return on investment and profits at Cleanaway and InfraBuild was impressive.

He said many business leaders had spoken highly of Mr Bansal, and during the due diligence and interviews it was clear that he was the right person and had also learned from his time at Cleanaway.

‘No qualms about his abilities’

“There is certainly a strong belief that leaders can evolve and grow,” said Mr Stokes. “We have no qualms about his abilities.”

Mr Stokes said Mr Todorcevski had been a “highly focused leader”, but Boral now needed someone with strong operational expertise. “Zlatko came in when Boral was a completely different company,” he said.

Boral is now a domestically oriented company in Australia after being sold out of North America in a run of over $4 billion sale of assets. Ryan Stokes, son of Kerry Stokeshas been a major driver of the exit from North America.

Boral has been working on detailed plans to get the structure to the right size, in line with the fact that it is an Australia-only company, and is cutting hundreds of positions before June 30. But the two downgrades have added pressure.

Mr Stokes said June 30 would not necessarily be the end date for position pruning.

“You are never done optimizing a workforce.”

East coast flooding and skyrocketing energy and fuel costs led to the latest write-down of $45 million on May 18. Floods and continued heavy rains hit $30 million, and rising inflation as coal, electricity and fuel prices rose made up for the other $15 million. Boral uses coal to make cement and concrete.

InfraBuild confirmed on Wednesday that the company was in a robust position, with strong steel prices and strong demand.

“InfraBuild has continued its transformation under Vik’s leadership, delivering both record financial and safety achievements over the past 12 months,” the company said in a statement.

After his departure, Mr. Bansal will become an advisor to the board of InfraBuild. GFG Alliance also announced on Wednesday that Tony Swiericzuk has been appointed as the new director of the Whyalla steel factory in South Australia.

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