Three cheers for Simon Challies
By Sam Dickie, Senior Portfolio Manager, New Zealand
07 June, 2017
At last month's annual results briefing, Ryman Healthcare Managing Director Simon Challies announced he'd be standing down on June 30 for health reasons. Simon was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2011 but has continued in the CEO role since then with the full support of the board.
Simon joined Ryman as Chief Financial Officer in 1999, and took over as Chief Executive in 2006 from Ryman co-founder Kevin Hickman.
As many of you will know, Ryman Healthcare has been a cornerstone investment for Fisher Funds and we've enjoyed being shareholders of this extraordinarily successful New Zealand company.
Under Simon's leadership, Ryman's portfolio of retirement villages has grown from 12 to 31 and the company has won the Most Trusted Brand in the retirement village industry accolade three years in a row. Simon led the company through the Global Financial Crisis, the Christchurch earthquakes (which destroyed their offices) and oversaw its expansion into Melbourne. The company has been a consistently high performer on the NZ Stock Exchange and was recognised for its growth strategy in the 2011 Management Magazine Top 200 Awards, with Simon also being recognised as an outstanding leader in 2014, winning the Deloitte top 200 CEO award.
We want to pay tribute to Simon, a CEO who we admire, respect and have very much enjoyed working with over the years. As our team recently discussed Simon's tenure as Ryman CEO, words like passion, honesty, good humour and dedication came to mind. Such qualities are consistent with the attributes Warren Buffett looks for when hiring CEOs to run his portfolio companies. We'll leave the last word to him, quoting a 'sermon' that Buffett often gives to MBA students who are heading out into the workforce.
"We look for three things when we hire people. Interestingly enough these things are a bunch of qualities that are self-made. We look for intelligence, initiative or energy, and we look for integrity. If they don't have the latter, the first two won't be enough.
It's not about whether you have the ability — lots of people do. It's not about how tall you are. It's not whether you can run the 100 yard dash in 10 seconds. It's not whether you're the best looking person in the room. It's about how you're wired; it's integrity, it's honesty, it's generosity, it's being willing to do more than your share, taking the initiative and making things happen. That's the person we'd hire."
Simon, we think Buffett would quite like you!
Gordon MacLeod, Ryman's Deputy Chief Executive and CFO, will take over as Chief Executive on June 30.
Simon will continue as an advisor to the Ryman board until December 2018.