AUSTRALIA: Southcorp CFO resigns

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The Australian wine giant Southcorp has lost its chief financial officer following his resignation today, two months after the company sacked its CEO Keith Lambert.

Southcorp said today that CFO Peter Cleaves had resigned, but declined to elaborate on the circumstances.

A Southcorp spokesman said it was Cleaves' decision to leave, but he acknowledged that there had been discussions between Cleaves and chairman Brian Finn. Talking to the Reuters news service he said: "In this case a form of words has been determined and agreed by Peter and that is really as far as he is prepared to go. I am not in a position to elaborate upon it."

However it is believed that Cleaves may have been held partly responsible for the recent performance of Southcorp, which has seen the company issue a series of profit warnings and a collapse in the company's shareprice. First half results, released in February, showed profits down 97% on the same period last year.
Both Lambert and Cleaves worked for privately held Rosemount, and assumed top jobs at Southcorp after a reverse takeover in 2001. However the company denied the job changes amounted to a Rosemount clearout.
Late last month Southcorp announced that it had appointed the former snack food executive John Ballard as its new CEO. It has already started the search for a CFO replacement and the company said that Cleaves would help ensure a smooth transition to his successor, staying on until that replacement was found.

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