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Sunday, July 21, 2024

Austal Chairman John Rothwell to Retire, Richard Spencer Tapped as Successor

June 27, 2024

(File photo: William B Sparks / U.S. Navy)

(File photo: William B Sparks / U.S. Navy)

Shipbuilding group Austal on Thursday announced that its inaugural chairman, John Rothwell, is retiring from his position of Chairman of the company to serve on the Austal board as a non-executive director.

Former U.S. Secretary of Navy Richard Spencer will replace Rothwell as Chairman, and will also join the board of Austal USA.

Rothwell’s retirement as Chairman marks a significant milestone in the history of Austal, having served in the position for 37 years since he founded the company in 1987. During that time Austal has grown from a small, privately-owned, West Australian, commercial shipbuilder to an ASX-listed, international defence prime contractor with a multibillion-dollar orderbook, over 4,000 employees and substantial ship building operations in Australia, the United States and South East Asia.

Rothwell said Austal set out four important criteria to select its new chair – excellent character; strong business acumen; in-depth knowledge of the U.S. defense industrial base; and enduring relationships with the Australian and/or U.S. defence sector.

“Those criteria narrowed the field of candidates considerably,” he said. “Richard was at the top of the list, and I’m pleased that he was receptive to our approach.”

Spencer served five years with the U.S. Marine Corps as a Naval Aviator. After leaving the defence force, he worked at several investment banks including Goldman Sachs, Donaldson, Lufkin and Jenrette, and Bear Stearns. He also served on the Pentagon Defense Business Board advisory panel and the Chief of Naval Operations Executive Panel. He was appointed and confirmed as Secretary of Navy from August 2017 through to November 2019.

Spencer said he was looking forward to the Chairman role, which commences on July 1, 2024.

“The position that Austal has forged in the U.S. and Australian defense sectors in such a short period of time is incredible,” he said.

“I have kept a close watch on the Company’s progress in the U.S.A. Its expansion from a two-ship yard to a multi-program provider, including command deck modules for the United States’ nuclear submarines, has been impressive.

“Austal’s position in the U.S. and Australian defence industry landscape has been built on a foundation of innovation and commitment to delivering a quality product to the men and women in the US and Australian navies. These organisational traits have been driven from the top-down by John Rothwell’s leadership and strength of character and he should be incredibly proud of the Company that he has built.

“I look forward to building on that platform alongside him to drive shareholder value, though I will save the valedictory for later as he will continue to be actively involved in Austal for at least the near future.”

Rothwell said, “I’m incredibly proud of what Austal has achieved during my time as Chairman. I have been considering stepping back from the Chair role for a few years now, and having just turned 80 and with an excellent replacement in Richard, the time is right. The Company is on a very strong footing, but it is entering its next phase of growth as a strategic defense shipbuilder, so I remain actively involved with Austal as an ordinary board member until the transition is complete.”

Rothwell owns 9.04% of Austal’s shares on issue.

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