RFG director resigns, takes on company consulting role

By Nick Hall | 02 Aug 2019 View comments

Embattled franchisor Retail Food Group’s (RFG) longest-serving director has resigned, just one week after reports raised conflict of interest concerns.

In an ASX announcement posted on Thursday, the RFG director in question, Jessica Buchanan was revealed to have stepped down, transitioning into a dedicated consulting role.

Peter George, RFG executive chairman said thanked Buchanan for her time at the multi-brand food franchisor.

“Jessica is widely recognised for her expertise and experience in consumer product marketing and retail franchising,” he said in the ASX statement.

“I’m delighted that her new role will allow her to directly drive the execution and delivery of the many strategic initiatives she has played a key role in formulating in her previous capacity.”

RFG director conflict of interest

It’s a poignant time for the RFG director to announce her resignation. Just last week, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Buchanan had started her own private food label, Naytiv in 2017.

The reports indicated that Buchanan had initially intended to sell the products through RFG’s embattled outlets, however the proposal was denied by RFG’s other board members.

Despite being knocked back, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald’s investigation threw related party transaction concerns into the picture.

Under the Corporation Act, directors are forbidden from improperly using their positions “to gain advantage for themselves”.

Buchanan at RFG

No board replacement has been named to fill the void left by the outgoing RFG director, however, it marks a significant change in leadership for the food franchisor.

Buchanan joined the board in 2012 and was one of just two board members that remained after a string of damaging reports reports led to a leadership clean-out. Now, only commercial lawyer Kerry Ryan remains from the pre-2017 era.

While the RFG director is stepping down from a role she has held for the better part of a decade, the transition will see Buchanan continue to consult through her private firms Brands R People 2 and Consumerology.

With the conflict of interest concerns now behind it, the focus now firmly shifts to the RFG turn-around, which has been under the director of specialist Peter George since October last year.

George noted that “innovative product offerings and campaigns will be critical to the revitalisation of RFG’s franchisee network which will, in turn, underpin the operational turnaround of RFG”.

The company recently signed a deal with property leasing firm Business Development Company, aimed at improving franchisee leasing conditions.