Corporate raider Nicholas Bolton appointed CEO of Yowie Group

Corporate raider Nicholas Bolton appointed CEO of Yowie Group

Photo: Yowie, via Facebook.

Nicholas Bolton, the corporate raider who made his name profiting from the failed toll road project BrisConnections in the late noughties, has finally taken the helm at Yowie Group (ASX: YOW) after more than five years of trying to take control of the Perth-based confectionery company.

Via the investment vehicle Keybridge Capital (ASX: KBC), where Bolton's tussle for control is a saga in itself that is ongoing with Geoff Wilson's WAM Active (ASX: WAA) as the chief rival, Bolton successfully secured a board seat at Yowie in late 2020.

Just before 2023 came to a close and with a 35.6 per cent holding at the time, Keybridge lodged a $7.4 million takeover offer for Yowie which was eventually deemed "not fair but reasonable" in an independent expert's report, leading independent directors to recommend shareholders reject the deal.

However, it appears many investors had just had enough of the brown stuff, allowing Keybridge to steadily buy up shares and secure a majority shareholding in mid-April. At the start of May, Keybridge announced to the market that the takeover offer had officially closed on 26 April, with the Bolton-controlled company's stake at close to 78.4 per cent.

Today's announcement reveals that in the month of April the company recorded an operating loss of US$363,000, which is significant considering the same figure for the preceding three months was US$495,000.

It must be noted that the company was able to sell Bluey-branded seasonal confectionery in the Australian and New Zealand markets over Easter, which this year fell at the end of March, but it reports that seasonal sales were unprofitable.

This, along with reinvigoration of the Ernest Hillier facility plucked out of administration last year, were reported as responsible for US$1.17 million of the US$1.72 million in losses incurred in the financial year to date. 

The company has also secured licensing deals to market chocolate with several other major brands including the NRL, AFL, and most recently the North American National Basketball Association (NBA) with minimum guaranteed licence fees payable of $2.5 million.

With Bolton as CEO, Yowie's board and management are targeting a series of structural changes to operations which they expect will achieve annualised ongoing savings of more than US$1 million each year.

These savings are after accounting for the costs of the latest executive changes, which include the appointment of John Patton as executive chairman, filling the vacancy left by the departure of executive chairman Sean Taylor shortly before Keybridge took its majority stake. 

Patton has long had links to Bolton and on several occasions has featured in Bolton's takeover plans for different companies, including his successful appointment as current chairman of Keybridge. 

Yowie has also appointed Memories Group co-founder and former Chupa Chups marketing account manager Andrew Ranger to the board,

"I am incredibly pleased to take Yowie on its next adventure. Following Keybridge’s successful takeover, my initial focus as CEO is to aggressively rationalise the costs structure of the business whilst promoting innovative products at sustainable margins," says Bolton.

"The Yowie products form an important part of Australian culture, and I am very proud to be part of the team that takes Yowie to the world."

Bolton will be on a base salary of US$522,600, which compares to a salary of US$322,600 for his predecessor and longstanding Yowie exec Mark Schuessler who announced his retirement in July last year.

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