Babcock & Brown’s founder and CEO retire amid turmoil

The Australian infrastructure pioneer has unveiled a major management overhaul as its share price continues to decline. Firm founder Jim Babcock and long-time chief executive Phil Green will be replaced by in-house executives.

Babcock & Brown chairman Jim Babcock and chief executive Phil Green have resigned their respective executive positions at the Australian infrastructure specialist, as the firm responds to shareholder calls for a management shakeup.

Babcock, who helped found the eponymous firm in San Francisco in 1977, will be replaced by current deputy chairman Elizabeth Nosworthy but will remain on the board of directors as a non-executive director after a short transition period.

“As I indicated at the company’s AGM in early May, we heard the market’s desire for us to make governance and strategic changes to better reflect the nature, scale and breadth of Babcock & Brown today compared to the much smaller, highly entrepreneurial company that listed on the Australian Securities Exchange just four years ago, and the changes being announced today have been designed and adopted with this in mind,” Babcock said in a statement.

Green resigned his post after 24 years with Babcock & Brown and nearly four years as managing director and chief executive. Green, who like Babcock will remain on the board of directors as a non-executive director, will be replaced in both capacities by current chief financial officer Michael Larkin.

Larkin, who joined the firm in 2004, was previously financial controller for London-based Lend Lease Corporation.

Publicly-listed Babcock & Brown, often considered the smaller counterpart to Australian infrastructure giant Macquarie, has watched its shares plummet nearly 90 percent in value over the past year.

Adding to the firm’s woes is the poor performance of several of its public investment funds. Earlier this week, the firm said that its publicly listed energy fund would take an A$452 million ($397 million, €267 million) write-down. 

In addition to Babcock and Green’s resignations, executive directors Jim Fantaci and Martin Rey have also stepped down from the board to increase the proportion of sitting independent and non-executive directors. Audit and risk management committee chairman Michael Sharpe has also left, although in a statement the firm said he was retiring for health reasons.

Babcock & Brown currently manages 11 listed funds, five unlisted funds, and two private equity-style co-investment funds.