Director clear-out on board of Government-backed New Zealand Growth Capital Partners venture capital fund

Changes continue at the government-owned fund set up to invest in early-stage companies, with a board clear-out under way.

On Wednesday the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment announced four new directors would be joining the board of New Zealand Growth Capital Partners, a month after David Smol, the former chief executive of MBIE, was announced as its new chairman.

Smol, who only joined the board in early December, will be joined on the board by Annabel Cotton, Guy Royal, Marcel van den Assum and Mel Firmin, MBIE’s general manager of entity performance and investment, Michael Bird, said.

“They bring a wealth of governance expertise and industry knowledge to the table,” Bird said. “This will ensure that the organisation is well positioned for the future.”

The statement did not mention that the three other directors of NZGCP – which was known until last year as the Venture Investment Fund – were all resigning.

Murray Gribben, who had served on the board since 2013 (and was briefly acting chief executive) had indicated he would be standing down when the recruitment process was complete.

MBIE has confirmed to the Herald that Debra Birch, who had been acting chairwoman, and Emma Loisel are all in the process of resigning.

A spokesman for MBIE said Birch’s resignation “was timed to coincide with the new appointments to ensure that there was governance in place”.

Loisel, meanwhile, resigned from the board at the end of December. “Ms Loisel has agreed to remain with NZGCP as a special adviser to the Board through to the end of March 2021.”

The statement did not say why the directors, who both joined the board in November 2018, were leaving.

In the last term of Government the fund was granted hundreds of millions of dollars of new funding, but it has been hit by complaints about its actions and executive changes.

Former chief executive Richard Dellabarca quit abruptly in August, a few months after a board initiated investigation into a complaint against a staff member was not upheld.

Then in September the fund announced that Daria Murray would become the new chief executive in October. It then refused to discuss why she had not taken up the role until confirming at the start of December that the appointment was off.

This week NZGCP also announced that James Fletcher had been appointed as interim chief executive on a six-month fixed-term contract.

“The appointment process for a permanent CEO will be carried out in the first half of this year,” NZGCP said in a statement posted to its website this week.

NZGCP is yet to release its annual report for 2019/2020.

Fletcher said changes at the organisation had complicated the process of completing the annual report, but it was now with the Minister of Economic Development, Stuart Nash.

A spokeswoman for Nash said the report was expected to “be tabled in Parliament as soon as possible once the House resumes for 2021”.

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