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Emma Hill, daughter of Sir Michael Hill, is stepping down as chair of the company's board of directors to make way for Rob Fyfe, a former Air New Zealand executive.
Emma Hill, daughter of Sir Michael Hill, is stepping down as chair of the company's board of directors to make way for Rob Fyfe, a former Air New Zealand executive.

New chairman for Michael Hill International, Emma Hill stands aside

The chair of Michael Hill International (MHI)'s board of directors, Emma Hill, is set to step down today handing the reins to Rob Fyfe, former CEO of Air New Zealand.

Hill will remain as non-executive director, along with her father Sir Michael Hill. In addition, Daniel Bracken, the company's CEO, is to join the MHI board as managing director effective 28 June 2021.

Emma Hill, chair of the board of directors, Michael Hill International
Emma Hill, chair of the board of directors, Michael Hill International
"The time is right for this transition. The company has never been in a healthier position"
Emma Hill, outgoing chair, Michael Hill International

According to an MHI announcement to the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), Fyfe – an MHI board member for more than seven years – is credited with driving an historic turnaround at Air New Zealand. He has also been the CEO and subsequently chair of Icebreaker, an apparel business, and is currently a director of Air Canada.

“Rob is an outstanding strategic and transformative leader with a track record of maximising shareholder value. The time is right for this transition. The company has never been in a healthier position,” Emma Hill said.

“Our CEO Daniel is delivering exceptional results across our transformation program. He has elevated customer experience and continues to strengthen our market position. I’m pleased Daniel will join the board as managing director,” she added.

Bracken joined MHI in October 2018. At the time he had more than 26 years experience in fashion and retail and was CEO of Specialty Fashion Group; prior to that he was deputy CEO of Myer and also held senior executive positions at Burberry.

Underpayments and misleading advertising

In July 2019 Bracken announced and authorised a full investigation into MHI’s widespread underpayment of Australian retail workers over the previous six years. The company issued a statement estimating the underpayments at between $10 million and $25 million; this was said to have occurred due to non-compliance with the General Retail Industry Award.

A few months later MHI again found itself in hot water over its new collection of lab-created diamond engagement rings, which appeared to fall foul of industry and government regulations concerning misleading and deceptive advertising.

The company’s marketing campaign, website and online store promoted the engagement rings using terms and descriptions that did not conform to industry standards and, in some cases, could be in contravention of government guidelines designed to protect consumers.

A few weeks later the high profile retailer responded to reports that its lab-created diamond marketing materials could mislead consumers.

Answering questions about its use of terms such as ‘real’, genuine’ and ‘not synthetic’ in its consumer information, a spokesperson said: “As we work towards establishing a new category of diamonds in Australia, we are also keen to engage across the industry with peak bodies as they evolve and refine the accepted terminology for describing laboratory-created diamonds.”

The Michael Hill International (MHI) stock price has increased considerably over the past year.
The Michael Hill International (MHI) stock price has increased considerably over the past year.

Not only was MHI’s marketing terminology potentially a breach of Australian consumer law, it also appeared to breach Responsible Jewellery Council guidelines, of which it is a member.

As a result, the company rectified the terminology on its website and in other marketing materials. 

The board reshuffle follows MHI's April announcement that same-store sales for the third quarter of FY21 had increased by 16.4 per cent, while total revenue had risen 11.6 per cent.

Net profit for the December half-year of $38.9 million represented an 82 per cent increase on the previous year. 

The company’s shares closed at 83 cents on Friday, up from 32 cents since 30 June 2020.

 

More reading:
Michael Hill International reports positive sales trends
Michael Hill records ‘outstanding’ results in second half of 2020
Michael Hill executives to take pay cut; repayments to employees on hold
Michael Hill reopens 125 stores; closes some permanently











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