Advisory Board member named top Kiwi CFO for 2011

29 May 2011

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Jonathan Mason

Recognised for his ground-breaking approach to changing dairy giant Fonterra's capital structure, Business School Advisory Board member Jonathan Mason has been named New Zealand's CFO of the Year for 2011.

The company's US-born chief financial officer, who is also on The University of Auckland Foundation Board, was described by the award judges as a passionate and strategic thinker with prudent financial management skills.

"(His) financial management during a period of market volatility has Fonterra extremely well-placed," the judges said.

Mason never under-estimated the importance of getting farmers onboard, they noted, and held hundreds of shed meetings around the country, which led to overwhelming support from 90 percent of shareholders when only 75 percent was needed.

Fonterra's financial health is now said to be in the strongest shape in the cooperative's history, with its gearing ratio down to 44.9 percent from 53 percent a year earlier.

Mason joined Fonterra in March 2009 from a stint with Cabot Corporation in the US, where he was executive vice president and CFO. Before that he was CFO for forest products group Carter Holt Harvey from 2000 to 2005.

"I believe it is important to strive to be excellent at your chosen career throughout your professional life, and it is always great to be recognised by your peers for your efforts," Mason says.

Having overseen the design of the capital restructuring which took Fonterra's management and board nearly a year to get approved by shareholders, the next step - share trading among farmers - is yet to be approved and requires legislative change, but will free Fonterra from its current obligation to cash up the shares of farmers wanting to exit the company or reduce milk production.

Outside of Fonterra and the University, Mason is also a board member for Carter Holt Harvey and Natixis North America, a $75 billion mutual fund complex.

He and his wife, Mary, have donated a significant amount to the Business School over the past few years and their gifts will be recognised on the School's donor wall.

"From my time in New Zealand - I've spent seven out of the past 11 years here - I've tried to support the Business School as one of the institutions that can move this country forward in encouraging entrepreneurship, innovation and excellence in a business education.

"I also love the University for its educational breadth and am currently enrolled in an evening course in ancient history."