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Retail Queen’s shock takeaway

SHE was the longest-serving board members at one of Australia's biggest retail conglomerates, which includes the likes of Brumby's Bakeries, Donut King, Crust Pizza and Di Bella Coffee.

But Jess Buchanan departed with hardly a peep last month from long-troubled Retail Food Group, where she had acted as "head of retail" since last December. She had previously spent seven years as a director of the company.

City Beat spies familiar with the inner-workings of the Gold Coast-based outfit describe her as a skilled and aggressive operator who was primed to step up as CEO shortly.

So what happened? That remains unclear but we understand a falling out with boss Peter George may have played a part.

Jess Buchanan
Jess Buchanan

What we do know is that George tapped former "head of growth'' Matt Marshall to step up into her role on November 18 to help drive the group's continued "turnaround'' plan.

A statement to the market announcing the shake-up mentioned Buchanan only in the second to last paragraph and then just gave her a terse thanks "for her passion and strategic impact''.

At last week's AGM, less than two weeks after Buchanan's departure, she was airbrushed completely out of George's address to shareholders.

That seemed odd, since George specifically talked up the company's allegedly improving fortunes which occurred under her watch.

"The past 18 months have been a transformational period during which we have made significant progress in our turnaround journey and established a firm platform from which to pursue a return to future profitability and growth,'' he said.

Buchanan first joined the company in 2012 after working at the franchisee coalface with her family.

She then chalked up experience in advertising for brands such as BMW's Mini Cooper, Tabcorp, Cadbury Schweppes and the ADF. Subsequent work includes the launch of research agency Consumerology and gigs with Boost Juice, Banjo's Bakery, Narellan Pools and Katies.

But her time at RFG was not without controversy. She launched her solely-owned food company Naytiv in 2017 and sought to have some of its products stocked with RFG franchisees but the idea was later nixed.

That coincided with a horror period for the company, which lost $4m in the last financial year. That followed a $142m loss in 2019 and a staggering $307m of red ink in 2018,

RFG, which remains under investigation by the ACCC, has also been hammered by numerous allegations of poor treatment of franchisees and underpayment of staff. No surprise that the share price has fallen off a cliff as a result.

George, who saw his compensation package nearly quadruple to $1.3m last year, did not return a call seeking comment on Wednesday. Neither did an external spin doctor working for RFG.

Buchanan could not be reached.

FRIENDLY TAKEOVER

Geoff Williams and the gang at Rockhampton-based Betta Power Services uncorked the good stuff this week.

They celebrated the $5m friendly takeover of the company by Melbourne firm Orcoda, the ASX-listed transport logistics andservices group.

It's a natural fit since Betta, which launched in 2005, is largely focused on transport infrastructure-related projects inrail, road and air for energy providers.

 

Betta Power Services company director Geoff Williams.
Betta Power Services company director Geoff Williams.

 

Under the deal, Orcoda will fork out $5m in a combination of securities and cash for Betta, which generated $9m in revenuein the last financial year. That resulted in $2.1m in pre-tax earnings.

Williams, founder and boss of Betta, told us the fusion of the two companies would boost efficiencies and profitability.

"There are multiple major infrastructure projects coming up in road, rail and air in central Queensland and a combined Orcoda/Bettabusiness will be well positioned to win a lot of these contracts," he said

CALLING IT A DAY

Two long-time fixtures in Brisbane accounting circles are hanging up their spurs at the end of the month.

BDO Partners Paul Gallagher and John Keating will head for the exits after 40 years and 24 years respectively of number crunching.

The pair were jointly feted last week with champers in the boardroom and a private event recently at Malt Dining.

Gallagher has been with the firm since day one, hired straight out of uni in 1980 when it only had three partners and 15 staff. Many mergers later it now has more than 60 partners and nearly 500 staff.

 

BDO partners Paul Gallagher and John Keating.
BDO partners Paul Gallagher and John Keating.

 

Among the memories is being present for the first "cash count'' with stadiums kingpin Harvey Lister after the opening of the Brisbane Entertainment Centre. Other clients included Cubbie Farms, Credit Union Australia and the Cairns hotel and casino.

Keating, who formerly worked at PWC and Eagers, ran PKF before it joined forces with BDO.

Both gents will have plenty to keep them busy once the calculators are switched off.

Gallagher, who plans to remain on the boards of QIC and the Committee for Brisbane, hopes to do a bit of travel and consulting.

Continued work with Queensland Cricket, golf and wine tasting are on the agenda for Keating. Meanwhile, still in the same arena, we hear that Brisbane-based financial planner Michael Nowak has just been tapped to serve as national president of the Association of Financial Advisors.

Notably, his now-retired father, Joe, served in the same position three times.

It's the first time a son has followed his dad in the job, which includes regularly briefing the PM and Treasurer.

 

A MILLION TRIPS

 

Fresh data released this week reveals just how much Brisbane consumers love their e-scooters.

Neuron Mobility, which first launched its distinctive orange vehicles across the city in August last year, has just chalked up the milestone of one million trips.

The fleet of 600 or so scooters covered more than 2.7 million km as the Singapore-based firm continues to battle arch rival Lime for market share.

 

Neuron Mobility continues to battle rival Lime for market share.
Neuron Mobility continues to battle rival Lime for market share.

 

To put that figure in perspective, a Neuron spin doctor very helpfully pointed out that it's the equivalent of 187 trips around Australia, 1600 trips between Brisbane and Cairns or, our personal favorite, three round trips to the moon.

Neuron's success comes as competition in the sector is poised to heat up.

The Brisbane City Council announced plans last month to scrap its costly and chronically under-used CityCycle fleet in favor of an e-bike scheme.

Over the past decade, the bikeshare project has cost $16.5m and attracted just 4 million trips, with patronage falling off steadily over the past two years.

It's expected that about 2000 of the BCC's new eco-friendly vehicles will be rolled out starting in July.

 

 

 

Originally published as Retail Queen's shock takeaway



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