AgroFresh CFO Kathy Harper leaves abruptly

  • Push-out Score suggests push-out forces
  • After less than two years in the position
  • Accolades, praise, thanks and good wishes for Harper
  • Graham Miao taking over

(exechange) — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, August 30, 2018 — Kathy Harper, finance chief of AgroFresh, leaves. It is an abrupt change. As announced by AgroFresh Solutions, Inc. in a news release and in a regulatory filing published on Thursday, August 30, 2018, Katherine (Kathy) Harper, chief financial officer, has left the maker of food preservation and waste reduction products for fresh produce after less than two years in the role, effective August 29, 2018.

No company wants a CFO to flame out in the first years.

Among the 3,000 largest publicly held companies incorporated in the U.S. based on market capitalization, the average tenure of the CFOs who departed over the past 12 months was 6.8 years, according to data compiled by exechange. Only 13 percent of the CFOs who departed over the past 12 months left the position within two years, and 25 percent left the position within three years.

Harper’s duties will be taken over by Graham Miao, most recently chief financial officer of Pernix Therapeutics Holdings.

The fact that Harper’s successor is brought in from outside suggests that the board may seek to stimulate change with fresh ideas and new initiatives.

In general, an outsider does not have the constraints of an insider when it comes to leading painful changes or making unpopular decisions.

“To pursue other professional interests”

Harper’s sudden departure from the CFO post is explained as follows. AgroFresh said: “Graham Miao will be joining the company as chief financial officer, effective today. He will be replacing Katherine Harper, who is leaving the company to pursue other professional interests.”

The phrase “to pursue other professional interests” opens the door to speculation.

Precise information about Harper’s future plans was not immediately available.

Alarm signal

Generally speaking, it is often an alarm signal for stockholders when a CFO leaves the post abruptly and without a reasonable explanation.

Share price decline

The change follows a decline in the share price of AgroFresh Solutions, Inc. since July 2015.

Chaired by Nance K. Dicciani

AgroFresh Solutions, Inc. is chaired by Nance K. Dicciani.

Nance K. Dicciani joined the Company’s Board upon the consummation of the Company’s business combination with The Dow Chemical Company on July 31, 2015, and was appointed non-executive Chair of the Board on August 13, 2015.

CEO: Jordi Ferre

Jordi Ferre serves as CEO of AgroFresh Solutions, Inc. Jordi Ferre has served as the Company’s Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Company’s Board since October  2016.

In the position of CFO since 2016

Katherine Harper has served as the Company’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer since October 2016.

Prior to joining the Company, Harper served as Chief Financial Officer of Tronox Limited (“Tronox”) from September 2013 until September 2016.

Prior to joining Tronox, Harper served as the chief financial and business development officer of Rio Tinto’s diamonds and minerals group.

She previously held finance and business transformation roles in Rio Tinto’s mining and alternative energy units.

Earlier in her career she worked for 12 years in senior finance posts with the Gulbrandsen Group, a privately held chemical manufacturing company, and the General Chemical Corporation.

She began her career as a financial analyst within the power systems group of the Westinghouse Electric Corporation.

Harper holds Bachelor of Science and Master of Business Administration degrees from Carnegie Mellon University.

At the time of Harper’s appointment as chief financial officer at AgroFresh, Nance K. Dicciani, then chair of the board of AgroFresh and interim co-chief executive officer, had said: “We are delighted to have someone of Katherine’s extensive public company experience join AgroFresh. Her track record of transformational leadership, with an emphasis on global operations, cost management and forecasting, as well as strategic planning and execution are the right fit for AgroFresh and our growth priorities.”

Push-out Score suggests push-out forces

It is not completely certain what forces eventually triggered Kathy Harper’s sudden move.

The Push-out Score™ determined by exechange suggests that push-out forces may have contributed to the change.

Read the full story in the exechange report 36.2018 ($).