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Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  02 Mar 2009

FOOD & BEVERAGES: Oceana: Life After Marshall


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AT the end of last month fishing giant Oceana saw long serving ‘corpo-rate skipper’ Andrew Marshall jumping ship to join struggling packaging giant Nampak.

Marshall has served ten years as CEO of Oceana, holding the helm through one of the toughest and trickiest trading periods for the local fishing sector.

Not only did Marshall have to deal with shifting fishing patterns, but also cope with external factors like fast rising fuel costs and a stronger rand (which impacted exports).

Over and above that, Marshall needed to show remarkable tact and diplomacy to ensure Oceana secured its fair share of long term fishing rights.

But Marshall will be piped off the good ship Oceana with his reputation as a manager capable of thriving in fair and foul well intact.

Just prior to announcing his decision to step down, Marshall announced a set of stunning financial results for Oceana.

In the year to end September the group - which celebrated its 90th year - pushed its turnover through the R3 billion mark for the first time.

But more impressive (and a testimony to Marshall’s management abilities) was that the 15% increase in turnover was transformed to R246 million at bottom line - up 46%.

With demand for fishing showing a steady increase locally and abroad as well as the margin enhancing effects of a weaker rand on export revenues, it would seem Marshall will leave a very viable legacy behind.

Oceana chairman Mustaq Brey - who also represents empowerment group Brimstone - put things into perspective over the long term.

He noted that since Marshall’s appointment in 1999 the market capitalisation of Oceana had increased from R394 million to R2.5 billion with the group “well positioned going forward with good prospects for 2009”.

To date no successor for Marshall has been announced.

This process should be fairly fascinating around whether Oceana (or controlling shareholder Tiger Brands) opt to appoint a successor from inside the company or head-hunt an executive from outside the organisation.

Oceana’s annual report shows several divisional heads with the experience to take the tiller at Oceana.

But Tiger Brands may have an up-and-coming executive in its ranks ready to earn his or her sea legs.

Tiger probably also knows that the Cape Town-based CEO of Oceana is a plum position, so there’s no harm in dangling a line to see who bites.

Readers may remember when former CEO Dave Behrens stepped down (after a very successful tenure) there were a few eyebrows raised when an outsider called Andrew Marshall (then a packaging company executive) was selected as Oceana CEO. At least now we know the answer to the bitchy query from that time: “What the hell can a packaging guy know about the fishing industry?”

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