After seven years with New Zealand’s Sanford, CEO Volker Kuntzsch is stepping down

Published on
September 11, 2020

After seven years at the helm of New Zealand seafood company Sanford Limited as its chief executive, Volker Kuntzsch is stepping down, according to a 10 September announcement.

Sanford Chair Sir Rob McLeod said Kuntzsch’s impact on the business has been “transformational” over the years, leaving behind a legacy for which the firm is grateful.

“Volker has helped transform Sanford into a progressive, values-based company with an outstanding commitment to environmental sustainability and to Sanford’s people. On behalf of the Sanford team, we are grateful to Volker for his leadership and thank him for a seven year contribution as our chief executive,” McLeod said. “Over those last seven years we have made good progress on maximizing the value of our fish products and diversifying our business, as well as turning our aquaculture business into a profitable and innovative unit.”

With Sanford’s business strategy and approach undergoing a shift, Kuntzsch and the company’s board have decided it would be best for a new leader to take over.

“As we now move towards a greater focus on consumer-driven innovation and marketing, Volker and the Sanford board have agreed that now would be a sensible time for a new leader to drive the next phase of the strategy,” McLeod said.

Kuntzsch leaves a lasting, strong culture in his wake, something Sanford is determined to preserve, McLeod said

An international search for a chief executive replacement by the company’s board will soon commence, Sanford said in a press release. Sanford Chief Customer Officer Andre Gargiulo will serve as acting chief executive in the interim, the company noted, providing “a continued point of contact with Sanford’s customers, markets, and investors” and ensuring “the safe ongoing operation of Sanford’s business,” once Kuntzsch officially departs on 18 September.

The news of Kuntzsch’s departure comes shortly after Sanford posted a 17 percent drop in profits for the first half of 2020, and proposed the closure of its Tauranga, New Zealand fish processing plant due to COVID-19 impacts in August. Two key reasons lead to the company’s decision to close the plant, including less processing due to lower fish catches as a result of COVID-19, and new seismic strength requirements that the building does not meet.

“We are very sorry to have to take this path," Sanford Limited COO Clement Chia said in an announcement. "Until very recently we had been planning a strong future for our Tauranga team. We had installed a second processing line at the end of last year, but in 2020 our fish processing arrangements were not only hit by the impact of COVID-19 but we received the results of seismic engineering reports showing that the site was not viable in the long term.”

The company initially had intentions to consider a rebuild of the plant or a relocation, but the pandemic has challenged those plans. However, some operations at the plant will continue, Kuntzsch said last month.

“We would continue to unload seafood at the Tauranga site under the proposed arrangements and we plan to retain a number of staff in that area,” Kuntzsch said. “We are entering a period of consultation with our team and we will not know the final configurations until that process is complete.”

Photo courtesy of Volker Kuntzsch/LinkedIn

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