Rip Curl founders step down from the board and might hail a bigger exit; the businesses of Australia’s wealthy entrepreneurs are going through a challenging period of generational change

James Thomson Editor

Rip Curl founders step down from the board and might hail a bigger exit

Published 25 September 2013 11:23, Updated 25 September 2013 14:07

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Founders of Rip Curl Brian Singer and Doug Warbrick at Bells Beach. Photo: Paul Harris

It’s no secret that the businesses of Australia’s wealthy entrepreneurs are going through a challenging period of generational change. At Westfield, the transfer of operational power to Frank Lowy’s sons Peter and Steven is all but complete. At Seven Group, Kerry Stokes is carefully managing the rise of son Ryan. At David Hains’s Portland House Group, his sons are firmly in control. It’s the same story on Linfox, where Lindsay Fox hasn’t attended a board meeting in 20 years. Now, two of the coolest men to grace the Rich 200, Rip Curl founders Doug “Claw” Warbrick and Brian “Sing Ding” Singer, are facing up to their moment of generational change. According to a report from Business Day, the pair has stepped down as directors of the company they founded in the late 1960s and turned into a global giant in the surfwear industry.The move is hardly surprising given both men are in their 70s, but it does come after an interesting year for Rip Curl.

The business was put on the market in September last year. Initial reports suggested a price tag of between $400 million and 500 million.

However, the difficult retail conditions for surfwear brands, starkly highlighted by the troubles at rival group Billabong, forced the sale to be pulled in March.

At the time, Singer described public markets as a “a bit of a cesspit”. But Rip Curl has had its financial issues, with the company disclosing a $536.6 million half-year loss in February.

Singer and Warbrick will, of course, retain their 72 per cent shareholding in Rip Curl and plenty of influence over its future.

They will also face a big decision at some stage in the coming years.

But unlike Frank Lowy, Kerry Stokes or Lindsay Fox, there is no second generation of family members coming through to run the business. That means that some sort of trade sale or float will need to be examined again.

Indeed, removing the founders from the board could make that process easier, as a buyer might be less concerned they are getting a business intrinsically linked to its founders.

Stepping down from the board might be precursor to a bigger exit.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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