Dairy giant Murray Goulburn names John Spark to replace chairman Philip Tracy from April 1

Murray Goulburn has appointed experienced businessman John Spark as chairman.

Mr Spark does not come from within the dairy industry but has agricultural business experience. Until recently he had a beef cattle farm near Yea and was also an investor in Victoria’s fourth largest asparagus producer as well as in a large Kiwi fruit business near Shepparton.

He has boardroom experience across a range of businesses, including the agricultural industry and comes with a reputation for getting troubled businesses back on track.

“It is a true honour to have an opportunity to apply my passion and expertise to the chairmanship of Murray Goulburn, a proudly farmer-controlled co-operative that has grown to become Australia’s largest dairy producer and one of the country’s largest agricultural exporters,” Mr Spark said.

Mr Spark was a director of Ridley Corporation from 2008 until 2015 and served as chairman from 2010.

While he was chairman the company restructured to become Australia’s leading producer of high performance animal nutritional solutions across the full range of agricultural industries.

Since 2007, he has been a non-executive director and chairman of the audit and risk committee at Newcrest Mining Limited, Australia’s leading gold mining company.

He also previously served on the boards of ANL, Baxter Group Ltd and MacArthur Coal Ltd.

From 1989 to 2004, Mr Spark was a partner at Ferrier Hodgson, and was managing partner from 1998.

During this time he oversaw the successful restructuring and return to profitability of many large Australian companies.

He was also formerly a partner at Arthur Andersen and, prior to that at Orr, Martin and Waters and spent the early part of his career at Clyde Industries Ltd.

Current chairman Philip Tracy will retire on March 31, with Mr Spark taking over from April 1. He will join the board as a Special Director on March 24.

At Monday’s announcement Mr Tracy acknowledged the difficulty the co-operative’s suppliers have faced following a reduction in the farmgate milk price during 2016.

“After this particularly difficult period, the time is right to complete MG's leadership transition,” Mr Tracy said.

“It has been an honour to be chairman of MG and contribute to the co-operative which has invested in worldclass infrastructure and developed branded retail opportunities.

“I would also like to thank each supplier for their ongoing support of the co-operative.”