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Big shake-ups at AMP Limited and David Jones Limited

ASX-50 listed financier AMP Limited (ASX: AMP) confirmed today that its long-serving Chairman Peter Mason — also the chairman of David Jones (ASX: DJS) — will retire in August, a year later than planned. Mr Mason had stayed an extra year at AMP in order to oversee the company’s merger with AXA, and transition to new CEO Peter Meller.

Former AXA chairman Rick Allert will also step down after a three-year stint as an AMP director. AMP paid tribute to both individuals, thanking Peter Mason for his calm stewardship during the GFC and fruitful negotiations with AXA, while Rick Allert was acknowledged for his contributions to continuity and insight following the merger.

The retiring chairman stated that “the Board are in very capable hands”, with upcoming CEO Simon McKeon and new director Trevor Matthews bringing many years of experience in finance and insurance markets to the company. AMP has provided a brief biography of Mr McKeon, the Australian of the Year for 2011, which I recommend shareholders read.

Outgoing AMP chairman Mr Mason has also outlined plans to depart his role as chairman of David Jones (ASX: DJS), the latest in a flurry of management changes at the retailer. After a media storm over his approval of ‘inappropriate’ director share purchases three days before an ASX announcement sent the share price skywards, Paul Mason announced he will retire within three months. He will join the ranks of executives Steve Vamos and Leigh Clapham who were involved in the share purchases, and are also departing.

David Jones CEO Paul Zahra has also announced his intention to resign after months of infighting with the David Jones board, although several recent comments have been interpreted by the media as him leaving the door open to remain with the company.

Foolish takeaway

People are the most important asset in every company, and it can be difficult to replace long-serving individuals who have held their role for nearly a decade. Tenures of that length breed a familiarity and an insight that can only be acquired with time. However, with new individuals come new ideas, and AMP at least has two highly experienced and capable individuals to replace its retiring board members.

David Jones may be a different story, although if Paul Zahra stays it will be a big plus, mitigating any negatives from incoming directors new to the company.

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Motley Fool contributor Sean O’Neill doesn’t own shares in any company mentioned.

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