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Booktopia boardroom spill clears the way for new CEO, says founder

A boardroom spill at online book retailer Booktopia has seen chairman Chris Beare and three fellow independent directors resign. 

Su-Ming Wong resigned yesterday with immediate effect, while Fiona Pak-Poy and Judy Slatyer will stay on until the group’s annual meeting on November 28. Beare will remain as chairman until a replacement is found. 

Founder Tony Nash issued a statement today saying he intends to remain a director of Booktopia but will not be resuming an executive role with the company. 

“The company will now undertake a search for new non-executive directors, one of which will be appointed chairman,” he said. 

“The transition from a private to a public company is never easy and I would like to thank the outgoing board members for their contribution to the business over the last few years. I will continue to work with the chairman and ongoing directors to ensure a smooth transition to a new board.”

The resignations follow Nash’s move in August – as a shareholder with in excess of 5 per cent of the company – to call an extraordinary meeting of the shareholders to discuss changing directors. Since then negotiations have ensued to reach a compromise, with “various options” discussed between Nash and other directors.   

“The two priorities for these discussions have been having a quality independent board and ensuring a good transition and stability for the company,” Booktopia said in an announcement. “As nothing has been able to be resolved, the four independent directors have therefore decided to resign. In the interim, the remaining directors will work with Tony, management and the board to assist in a smooth transition.”

Nash said the company’s strategy and focus, including the transition to a new customer fulfilment centre detailed during recent months, will not change. “We will continue to pursue profitable and sustainable growth in the interest of all shareholders.”

Booktopia’s leadership has been under a cloud since Nash announced in May he would step sideways into a new role overseeing growth strategy sparking a search for a replacement. While he said he would remain in the role during the recruitment for his replacement, the board subsequently fired Nash in July, appointing CFO Geoff Stalley as interim CEO. No longer with an executive role in the business, Nash continued as a director, serving out his six months notice “out of the office”.

Nash said today that the recruitment of a new CEO “is progressing well and the resolution of recent board issues is expected to assist in this process”. 

“Booktopia is bestowed with a talented leadership team that has been empowered to meet the future plans for the business. We are looking to complement them by recruiting an equally capable CEO and new independent non-executive directors. 

“I am looking forward to working with the new directors and supporting the new CEO to ensure Booktopia reaches its full potential.”

Nash founded Booktopia from scratch building it into a company with $240 million annual turnover. However, he came under increasing pressure during the past year from institutional investors in the listed company, concerned at seeing the company’s value fall from a market capitalisation of nearly $400 million to just $26 million by last June.

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