Spark NZ chairman to step down later this year

Natalie Bannerman
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Mark Verbiest, chairman of Spark New Zealand, will retire later this year in order to "renew the chairmanship", and Justine Smyth named as successor

Mark Verbiest, chairman of the board of Spark New Zealand, formerly Telecom NZ, has confirmed his intention to retire later this year. The Spark board appointed director Justine Smyth as Verbiest’s successor, and she will assume her role in early November.

Verbiest, who has held the position of chairman since 2011, said: “With best practice governance succession planning in mind, I have decided I will retire from the board of directors of Spark New Zealand at the end of the annual meeting of shareholders in November this year”.

He added: "More than half of the current board, including myself, was appointed upon the demerger with Chorus in 2011. At some point, it will be appropriate for each of the long-serving directors to transition off the board. As a consequence, I do not believe it would be good governance to risk having several directors potentially retiring in short order, and, as the director with the longest association with Spark I prefer to lead by example. In my view, the foundation for future success is solid, and I feel the time to renew the chairmanship is now.”

He entered the role at a time when the company was going through a de-merger with Chorus, steering the organisation through a transformational period in its life cycle. During his time at the helm, the company has refocused its efforts on the New Zealand market, including investing billions into data network innovations. It also invested millions in IT service upgrades, partnered with several OTT providers such as Spotify and Netflix and most importantly established itself as market leader in the areas of video demand, broadband, wireless broadband and mobile.

The company’s financial results for the year ended 30 June 2017 show the record. The telco reported a 3.3% revenue increase in the 12-month period, to NZ$3.614 billion. The revenue growth helped to drive a 3% EBITDA uplift to NZ$1.016 billion.

Speaking on her new appointment, Smyth said “It will be an honour to serve as the chair for Spark, a company I believe plays a vital role for New Zealand. I’d also like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the enormous contribution Mark has made to Spark, and through the company to New Zealand, over many years. He has always skilfully led discussion around the board table and sought to get the best possible outcome. As a result, he has set an outstanding governance example and helped drive the transformation of Spark as a business and as a driver of New Zealand’s economy.”

Verbiest added: “It’s been an absolute privilege to serve as the chairman of Spark, and I look forward to watching its continued success in future as a Spark shareholder and customer.”