TFS Corporation has lost its chairman, with former Howard Government minister Richard Alston surprisingly quitting yesterday to add to the turmoil engulfing the Perth sandalwood grower's boardroom.
Mr Alston's resignation, announced in a brief statement that provided no reason why he had quit just over a year since his appointment, brings to six the number of directors who have quit TFS' board since July last year.
The period of revolving doors in the boardroom has coincided in a collapse in TFS' share price, from 88.5¢ when Mr Alston was appointed on July 1 last year to 40¢ last night, and sparked talk in investment circles of shareholder unrest about the company's strategy and its boardroom set-up.
TFS founder and chief executive Frank Wilson yesterday assumed the executive chairmanship. The remaining TFS directors include co-founder Stephen Atkinson, cricketer Adam Gilchrist, BHP Billiton external affairs executive Julius Matthys, and printing company boss Ronald Eacott.
Neither Mr Wilson nor Mr Alston could be reached for comment.
But a TFS spokesman dismissed speculation of shareholder unrest as "absolutely not" and said a search was under way for a new chairman.
"I don't think there are issues that should concerns shareholders," the spokesman said.
"I think it's just a personal issue that he (Mr Alston) decided to move. Frank does not covet the role (of chairman), he is reassuming that role temporarily until such time as an appropriate chairman can be found."
TFS is the world's biggest grower and manager of sustainable Indian sandalwood, with plantations in the Kimberley's Ord River irrigation area. Sandalwood's fragrance and medicinal properties have made its one of the world's most expensive hardwoods, selling for more than $100,000 a tonne.
TFS' plantations are still one year away from being harvested.
In the meantime TFS has been hit hard by the collapse in investor confidence in forestry as well as management investment scheme companies, with Gunns' collapse last week the latest blow.
A month ago, as TFS' share price slumped to a six-year low of 33.5¢, the company announced that it had asked investment bank Moelis & Co to help carry out a "comprehensive strategic review of the company, its assets and business with the objective of reviewing all options that will enhance shareholder value".
The Moelis news fuelled immediate takeover speculation and sent TFS' shares up 16 per cent to 39¢.
I don't think there are issues that should concern shareholders"