WITH a career that involved executive schooling at corporate giants including Citicorp Investment and the Packer-owned Publishing Broadcasting Limited (PBL), David Cassidy has taken on a new challenge at the publicly listed Pacific Environment Limited. Cassidy has his work cut out for him at The Robina-based clean-tech company following a volatile two years since listing on the ASX.
PEL recorded significant losses last FY. What skills do you bring to the table and what needs to be done to get the company’s share price back on track?
Although the last few years have seen impairments on the balance sheet and this is unfortunate, it does give me a clearer foundation to work from. I believe my financial acumen is critical for the next stages of growth.
For the last two years PEL has tried to drive the most material aspect of growth from its technologies. To be fair to them they never got the chance to engage with partners or clients or the required investment to make things happen, mostly due to market conditions, which are now changing.
My Plan A is to grow the cornerstone consulting businesses, then use the cash to grow the technology companies. The markets they are in should see multiple growths of two to three fold over the next few years. Plan B is to find investment.
My overall plan is to try and execute both Plan A and Plan B in parallel. Achieving an EBIT of $2.5m over the next few years would set a firm foundation to drive the share price to the next levels.
Your appointment to CEO comes after a year providing part-time support to the company. What was your involvement before taking the CEO role?
Initially it was to support sourcing investment but it became clear that PEL couldn’t say what they did simply. This became evident in taking them to target investor rooms from my prior network. Also for my rooms, an investment in PEL was too small. Initially I advised on positioning.
Following this I provided support ranging from acquisitions to advice at the Board level and where possible supporting funding provided by AMMA investment.
You have demonstrated a lot of confidence in PEL after taking a significant pay cut to drive the company forward. What’s the structure there?
If I didn’t believe in PEL, I would not have accepted the role. My contract is such that I do not pressure cash, but have self-servingly taken a strong equity position. I have a contract where my shareholding can increase on different triggers and would hope it can move to a total of 10 million shares over the next three years.
I’m the sort of guy that has a shelf life and I see a three to four year period of supporting growth and improving the share price. This period should see the right growth in fundamentals and as a consequence of the share price.
My background is such that planning will be aligned with future growth in share price, if we can make the growth happen in consulting and technology, which I believe we can. When it settles down to organic growth, I’m not that guy.
As former director of business development at PBL, you were involved in partnerships, acquisitions and commercial arrangements. What prepares you for that kind of pressure?
There’s nowhere to hide when you’re working in PBL. It’s very tactile in management in that James and the executives would come in and ask about projects and investments. Your thinking is challenged everyday and your answers need to nail it. I enjoyed this and the exposure to talented people.
Was that transition difficult after resigning from PBL?
I did need to look at new things, even though it was a fabulous experience. It becomes hard to progress to the next levels of advice, when you are seen at one level. Having left this I decided to try and develop my own investments through SmartCommerce. Two companies that are well underway are www.startnextweek.com.au, an education and training portal and www.flycke.com.au, a competitor of BPay.
What do you miss most about your time at PBL?
I do miss the diverse nature of opportunities you get to work on and the pool of talented people. Most of the time you don’t think about whom you’re working for and other times you can’t escape it with media parked outside the building.
This dynamic is not typical and is fun. Although one can do well from a cash perspective, you’re not really sharing the outcome. I need my own play in life. It’s inspiring schooling having worked there, but it’s important to have your own play and to develop the best future for you and your family.
What leadership qualities did you learn from the Packers?
From a leadership perspective, it was about bringing about that change and success. Kerry was a lot more colourful, where James is a bit more harnessing. I hope that I can be a little bit of Kerry and a lot more of James.
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