Grand Banks CEO quitting at year-end

PHOTO: Grand Banks CEO quitting at year-end

WATCHLISTED boatbuilder Grand Banks Yachts is now left bereft of its head skipper.

Chief executive officer Robert William Livingston II, who took over the role on April 1, 2009 from his father, will not renew his service agreement when it expires on Dec 31, 2012, the Grand Banks board said in a late filing on Sunday.

Chief financial officer Peter Poli has been appointed acting CEO beginning Jan 1, 2013 until a new CEO is found.

In the meantime, the board has begun a worldwide search for a new CEO to take the helm.

Seattle, Washington-based Mr Livingston owns 217,000 shares, or 0.2 per cent, of Grand Banks, but his father, "Bob" Livingston, remains the largest shareholder of Grand Banks, owning 23.8 per cent through Merlion LP and his own personal interest.

Mr Livingston's seemingly abrupt move is another piece of the ever-changing Grand Banks picture that began in October last year.

Then, at the annual general meeting, Mr Bob Livingston and Mr Livingston and two other independent directors were removed from their board positions. It managed to reconstitute its board with a new chairman, Heine Askaer-Jensen, who is also a board member of conglomerate Jebsen & Jessen (SEA).

Shortly after, in December, it was placed on the Singapore Exchange's watchlist, which is reserved for companies that have reported three consecutive years of financial losses.

In July 2012, it faced a surprise uprising among the ranks of its shareholders, when Peter Lim, the former CEO of Van der Horst Energy, and Kwah Yeow Khong, bought over 10 per cent of the company and called for an extraordinary general meeting to vote out the board.

Grand Banks responded at the eleventh hour of the EGM with the placement of 19.2 million shares to two new strategic investors - Genting Group chairman Lim Kok Thay and theme-park operator Koh Cheng Keong.

Grand Banks managed to withstand the challenge from Mr Peter Lim with its board intact, and strengthened by the clout of Mr Lim Kok Thay whose investment vehicle, EXA Limited, recently invested in another yacht company, Wider Yachts that is headquartered in Italy.

When contacted by The Business Times, Mr Poli said that the objective to get off the watchlist was unchanged even if Grand Banks' leadership was in flux.

"Our No 1 priority is to get off the watchlist by returning to profitability. We have made some progress compared to last year," he said, adding that the company was "pleased" with the activity level at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show in late October.

Grand Banks stock last closed at 31 cents on Dec 21.