Qantas successor John Mullen joins board early as outgoing chair Richard Goyder faces Woodside showdown

Daniel Newell
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Richard Goyder has brought forward his planned exit as Qantas chair.
Richard Goyder has brought forward his planned exit as Qantas chair. Credit: AAP

Qantas has brought forward the boardroom installation of Richard Goyder’s successor months ahead of schedule.

The corporate titan — who is fighting a shareholder revolt as chair of Woodside Energy — will quit the top job at Qantas ahead of the airline’s annual general meeting in October.

In a brief statement, the national carrier on Friday revealed successor John Mullen would step into the role as chair-elect from Monday — more than two months earlier than planned.

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Mr Mullen — an experienced company director and a former chair of Telstra — had been due to join the board on July 1 as a non-executive director and chair-elect, with his ascension to be put to a vote of shareholders at the AGM.

Mr Mullen is also chair of Treasury Wine Estates and Brambles, and “he expects to reduce his existing professional commitments over time”, Qantas said.

Mr Goyder announced his intention to give up the top job late last year in the wake of a number of scandals that had plaguing Qantas and damaged its reputation, including allegations it sold tickets for cancelled flights, a botched pandemic credit refund system, the controversy surrounding the abrupt exit of former chief executive Alan Joyce and illegally sacking 1700 ground workers.

At the time, Mr Goyder said the board needed to be accountable for the issues plaguing the carrier.

“We acknowledge the significant reputational and customer service issues facing the group and recognise that accountability is required to restore trust,” Mr Goyder had said.

Mr Mullen is seen as a safe pair of hands to help restore the nation’s trust in the airline under a new-look leadership team led by chief executive Vanessa Hudson.

The news of Mr Mullen’s fast-tracked entry to Qantas’ board comes just days before Mr Goyder is set to face a call to stand down as chair of Woodside when the energy giant holds its AGM on Wednesday.

It comes amid a climate action insurrection spearheaded by proxy firm CGI Glass Lewis, which has recommended shareholders kick him off the board.

CGI hit out at the company’s climate engagement and Mr Goyder’s role as chair of Qantas in a troubled year for the airline. Some investors have already announced plans to vote against Mr Goyder.

But Mr Goyder, in a direct pitch to investors this week, said shareholders would be hit hard by a rapid shake-up of the company’s strategy.

“We are concerned that some stakeholders’ and investors’ requests to drastically change Woodside’s strategy and investment priorities risk eroding value for all shareholders and contributing to a disorderly energy transition,” he said.

“The energy transition will take time and significant investment, and I am confident that Woodside’s disciplined approach is the right path for our shareholders.”

Woodside had endured a series of tight votes linked to climate policy at recent annual meetings, including an unusually large protest against director Ian MacFarlane last year.

Mr Goyder said climate change was “an urgent global challenge”, and the company had stepped up engagement in response to shareholder requests.

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