AFIC’s Barker calls time after 16 years at helm
Ross Barker, the chief executive of the nation’s biggest and oldest listed investment company, Australian Foundation Investment Co, will step down after 16 years at the helm.
AFIC has a portfolio of mostly Australian equities, worth nearly $7 billion.
Mr Barker will retire as CEO of the investment company on December 31, making way for Mark Freeman, now chief investment officer at AFIC, who will start on January 1. Mr Freeman will also replace Mr Barker as CEO of Australian Investment Company Services, which provides investment and administration services to AFIC, and three other listed investment companies in the stable: Djerriwarrh Investments, Mirrabooka Investments and AMCIL.
Mr Barker, who in July attacked the federal government’s planned bank tax as a poor piece of policy, was appointed as AFIC’s CEO in 2001 and is also chairman of the Melbourne Business School.
AFIC chairman Terrence Campbell said: “Mark is a natural successor to Ross Barker. He has a profound knowledge and depth of experience with investment markets and has a strong understanding of the company’s direction, policies and processes.”
As CIO of the investment companies business, Mr Freeman is responsible for leading the team managing the portfolios, with a combined total of more than $8bn in funds under management.
Before becoming CIO of the four investment companies in 2007, Mr Freeman was a partner with Goldman Sachs JBWere, advising the investment companies on their investment and dealing activities. On Mr Barker’s watch shareholders in AFIC have nearly doubled to more than 120,000. In the same period, the portfolio size as measured by total assets has expanded from $2.7bn to $6.9bn.
“Ross leaves AFIC and the three other investment companies in a strong position,” Mr Campbell said. “The board and management extend our warm wishes to Ross in his retirement and thank him for his enduring leadership and significant contribution throughout his distinguished 16-year tenure at AFIC.”
Mr Freeman will be paid a base salary of $850,000 a year, with an annual at-risk incentive representing 50 per cent of that fixed remuneration. A long-term incentive plan is set at 20 per cent of the fixed pay.
AFIC recently posted a 7.7 per cent fall in full-year net profit to $245 million.
Mr Barker is a long-time critic of excessive government red tape and interference in investment and capital markets. In July, he savaged the bank tax unveiled by the government as part of its May budget as an unjustified and poor piece of policy. “The worry is you get these piecemeal approaches to policy — well, let’s have a bank tax here; oh, we might have a mining tax, if they are successful; oh, we might have a Google tax, if we want to tax the internet economy — so just an ad hoc approach,” he told The Australian at the time.
“And this isn’t really a tax on banks — it’s a tax on bank shareholders because the government said we don’t want the borrowers or lenders to pay it.
“So it’s not the banks who pay it ultimately — it’s the shareholders, and ultimately they are the ones to bear the cost of this,’’ Mr Barker said. “It took us by surprise, totally, and it’s definitely poor policy because it doesn’t make sense to us.”