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Spark's chairman to retire later this year, new chair named

21 Aug 2017

Spark New Zealand’s Mark Verbiest, who has chaired the Board since December 2011, will stand down later this year.

Verbiest will be succeeded by Justine Smyth, the company’s current director, on 3 November 2017.

Verbiest says, “With best practice governance succession planning in mind, I have decided I will retire from the Board of Directors of Spark New Zealand at the end of the Annual Meeting of shareholders in November this year.”

“More than half of the current Board, including myself, was appointed upon the demerger with Chorus in 2011. At some point, it will be appropriate for each of the long-serving Directors to transition off the Board.”

Verbiest believes it would not be good governance to risk having several directors potentially retiring in short order, and, as the director with the longest association with Spark, he is leading by example.

“In my view, the foundation for future success is solid, and I feel the time to renew the Chairmanship is now.”

Verbiest was chairman during a period of significant transformation for the company.

During his time at Spark, the Kiwi telecommunications company refocused itself to solely on the New Zealand market and New Zealand customers.

According to Spark, it invested billions in data network leadership to get ahead of demand, and hundreds of millions to upgrade IT systems and it set-up a Spark Ventures unit to lead the development of new businesses like Lightbox and Qrious.

Moreover, Spark partnered with a number of companies including Spotify and Netflix, and it transformed it brand from Telecom to Spark in 2014.

Smyth brings extensive governance experience, including as the chair of the Audit & Risk Management and Human Resources & Compensation Committees of Spark, to her new chair position.

Smyth comments, “It will be an honour to serve as the Chair for Spark, a company I believe plays a vital role for New Zealand.”

“I’d also like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the enormous contribution Mark has made to Spark, and through the Company to New Zealand, over many years.”

Smyth says Verbiest has always skillfully led the discussion around the board table and sought to get the best possible outcome.

“As a result, he has set an outstanding governance example and helped drive the transformation of Spark as a business and as a driver of New Zealand’s economy.”

Additional changes to Spark’s Board include Alison Gerry who will succeed Smyth as the Chair of the Audit & Risk Management Committee, and Alison Barrass who will succeed Smyth as the chair of the Human Resources & Compensation Committee.

Verbiest adds, “I have been in a very fortunate position to see the full extent of the transformation that this business has undergone. From the days when Telecom was reborn as a single entity, to the transformation from Telecom to Spark, through to its current incarnation as a highly competitive and innovative digital services company focused only on New Zealand customers, the change has been enormous.”

“Spark is a business that I firmly believe will continue to play a major role in our country’s future in decades to come. It’s been an absolute privilege to serve as the Chairman of Spark, and I look forward to watching its continued success in future as a Spark shareholder and customer.”   

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