Queenstown Airport chairman quits after council threatens his removal

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Queenstown Airport’s board chairman – who oversaw Auckland International Airport’s controversial share buy-in – has been forced to resign.

Mark Taylor issued a statement this morning saying Queenstown Lakes District Council had recently voted in secret to remove him from the board if he did not resign within seven days.

“Accordingly I have tendered my resignation to the company, effective immediately.”

Taylor tells Mountain Scene he’s “surprised” by the decision. He wouldn’t be drawn on the grounds on which it was made.

“Council have a view on what they can do, they’re the controlling shareholder and we just go from there.”

Chairman of Queenstown Airport Corporation for four years, Taylor oversaw the highly controversial move to sell 24.99 per cent of the company’s shares to Auckland International Airport for $27.7 million in June last year.

The deal was done in secret with councillors kept in the dark until it was publicly announced.

Community outrage followed the deal, which included an option for Auckland Airport to increase its shareholding by a further 10 per cent.

This second option would have given Auckland Airport seats at the QAC board table and the ability to block major resolutions – described in an independent analysis done for council last month as “negative control”.

AIAL has since announced the second tranche of the deal wouldn’t go ahead.

Taylor says: “I continue to strongly support the decision taken by the airport company board in July 2010 to de-risk the business and introduce new capital to fund expansion and capitalise on the growing market.

“The board chose a new shareholder that could add significant experience and value as opposed to offering the opportunity to local interests.

“As promised at the time of the announcement the company will be in a position to pay a significant dividend to the community this year. Without the new capital structure this would not have been a possibility for many years.”

Taylor adds: “I leave the airport with a sense of pride having been one of those who have contributed to the company’s development over the years.

“I am happy to be judged on the company’s results and achievements during my term and in the immediate future.”