Coillte to stick with strategy as Leamy exits

Fergal Leamy will leave in June
Fergal Leamy will leave in June
Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

Fergal Leamy is to step down as CEO and as a director of Coillte, the State forestry company, just over four years after returning to Ireland to take up the role.

He'll remain with the company until June, when he's due to take up a new position in the private sector, but is remaining tight-lipped on what that job is.

Mr Leamy is understood to have taken a major pay cut in 2015 when he left a senior job with private equity group Terra Firma to take up the €191,000 a year Coillte job, which is subject to the cap on pay introduced for all top Government posts after the crash.

Before joining Coillte, Mr Leamy was a senior executive with Greencore and worked with consultants McKinsey.

During his term, Coillte signed a number of significant deals including last September's agreement to sell its operational wind farm assets to Greencoat Renewables, netting €136m for the semi-state company. Coillte had originally invested €25m in equity developing the wind farms with partners that included the ESB, Airtricity owner SSE, and Bord na Móna. It will hike a dividend to taxpayers this year on the back of the sale.

Under Mr Leamy, the company shifted tack, moving away from land sales - such as the €230m sale of a site in Longford to Center Parcs - in favour of leasing and partnerships to develop its non-forestry assets.

It is understood Coillte will drive ahead with its strategy launched last year to develop €1bn worth of wind energy assets in Ireland. The business is currently seeking an external partner for the strategy.

Coillte chief operations officer and chief financial officer Gerry Britchfield will take over as acting CEO in April 2019, and the company will launch a formal process to find a new permanent CEO in the coming weeks.

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The chairwoman of Coillte, Roisin Brennan, said Mr Leamy "has done an outstanding job over the past four years". "The business is now generating significant and sustainable operating cash flows, is more customer-focused and is increasing its return to the State as shareholder," she said.

Agriculture, Food and Marine Minister Michael Creed said Mr Leamy's tenure "has been one of huge success for the company as reflected in the turnaround in its commercial performance since his arrival".

Irish Independent

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