Grand Banks CEO decides to step down

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In the most recent move signaling shifting times at Grand Banks Yachts, CEO Robert William Livingston II has decided not to renew his contract, effective this week.

Chief financial officer and board member Peter Poli will serve as interim CEO until a replacement is found, the company reported.

Livingston took the helm in May 2009, succeeding his father, who is still the largest shareholder of Grand Banks Yachts Ltd. through Merlion LP, according to company documents.

The younger Livingston held 217,000 issued ordinary shares of Grand Banks Yachts Ltd. as of Oct. 19, documents show.

His father held the top post for 35 years and served as chairman of the board for the company, which is traded on the Singapore Stock Exchange.

The boatbuilder has appeared to be in flux for the past two years.

“Yes, we’ve seen a fair number of issues come across the transom in the past couple years,” Grand Banks brand and marketing director David Hensel told Trade Only. “But that’s not unusual for any business making its way through the kind of tough times our industry has seen. It’s all just a bit more visible when you’re a publicly traded company. What matters is how we manage it and, at the end of the day, the results speak for themselves: big new investments, increased shareholder confidence and solid gains in price per share as our revenues and profitability continue to grow.”

Grand Banks made a placement of 19.2 million shares of stock Sept. 17, which were bought by two investors — Exa Ltd. and Koh Cheng Keong — to raise money to “contribute to the growth and expansion of the company,” according to Grand Banks.

In September, Cheng Lim Kong, known in the media as Peter Cheng, bought about 10 percent of the company’s shares at 10 cents apiece from Wassbourne Finance, according to company documents.

In October, Grand Banks’ board beat back a challenge by dissident shareholders to replace all four incumbent directors in a so-called "extraordinary general meeting" under the rules of the Singapore Stock Exchange, Trade Only reported.

It was never clear exactly what the dissident shareholders wanted other than to “run the company in a better, more profitable way” and “to cut costs,” Hensel told Trade Only at the time.

“Although Cheng's move to buy a sizable interest in the company and install his own board was unexpected and unforeseen, it isn't a complete surprise, given our financial position at the time,” Hensel told Trade Only in an email on Thursday. “Grand Banks had around $22 million in cash on hand and no debt whatsoever, but our share price hadn't yet risen to reflect growing sales gains. Market value then was just $23.5 million on the Singapore Stock Exchange. So it's not surprising that someone might seek to come in and take control of all that cash — plus the GB brand, our factory and many other assets. Other investors also thought we were undervalued and began buying up shares, too.”

The stock might have been undervalued because of events that occurred in 2011. At the annual general meeting then, any board members up for re-election, including both Livingstons, were not re-elected, according to Hensel.

For years, the company paid dividends, but that had stopped in 2009, according to company documents.

The company reconstituted its board with a new chairman, Heine Askaer-Jensen, who is also a board member of the conglomerate Jebsen & Jessen (SEA), and another board member, Basil Chan.

In December 2011, the company was placed on the Singapore Stock Exchange watch list, a designation reserved for companies that post losses for three consecutive years.

In the first quarter of this fiscal year, which began July 1, revenues have risen 44.4 percent, Hensel said. At the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show in October, year-to-date revenues were up 87 percent, in part due to strong sales at the show, Hensel said at the time.

— Reagan Haynes

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