'End of an era' as Little steps aside as Toll boss

Toll Managing Director Paul Little will step aside in January 2012, marking the 'end of an era' for the company

'End of an era' as Little steps aside as Toll boss
'End of an era' as Little steps aside as Toll boss
By Brad Gardner | October 27, 2010

Toll is on the hunt for a new managing director after Paul Little announced he will step aside in January 2012.

Little has decided to move on after 24 years in the job where he has overseen the rise of Toll from a small road transporter to a leading national and international freight and logistics powerhouse.

Toll Chairman Ray Horsburgh says the move marks the "end of an era" for the company, which has instructed succession firm Egon Zehnder to conduct an exhaustive search for a replacement.

"Paul is one of Australia’s most respected business figures. Since the management buyout in 1986 Paul has driven Toll to the global leadership position it occupies today," Horsburgh says.

While Toll has not determined what the timeframe will be, Horsburgh says Little will return as a non-executive director "after an appropriate period" to provide advice and input. Little will also retain his equity in Toll, making him one of the company’s largest shareholders.

During a press conference today, Horsburgh praised Little as "an outstanding leader and an exceptional CEO" who has lived [and] breathed Toll".

During the conference Little listed some his greatest achievements, including taking Toll from humble beginnings as an east-coast transporter to a business employing 40,000 people in 55 countries.

"Flying the Australian flag in Asia at the moment and the new challenges of the Middle East, the US and UK is terribly satisfying for me," he says.

Little labelled the decision to step aside a "bittersweet moment", but added it was necessary in the interests of the company and continuity.

"I would love to do this job forever but of course that’s not possible and after consideration it is clear this is the ideal time for a changeover at the top," he says.

"This is not just about Paul Little. This is about over 100,000 shareholders, 40,000 employees and many customers that rely on us."

Despite the company focusing much of its time over the next year on a replacement for Little, the outgoing managing director has rejected any talk Toll will shy away from its aggressive expansion strategy.

"You can’t expect a pause in anything. If you are expecting one, you will be disappointed. The company has a lot of momentum at the moment," Little says.

"We have acquisitions that are being integrated, acquisitions that are being considered from a strategic point of view."

As well as taking over big-name transporter Concord Park, Toll has this year swooped on Summit Logistics International, WT Sea Air Group and Genesis Forwarding Group to grow its domestic and international operations.

Toll will also continue to eye the Asian market following its acquisition of Japanese company Footwork Express.

"The board is excited about the growth than can occur in Asian markets. It is just exciting what can happen up there," Horsburgh says.

Meanwhile, Little intends to pursue community and business interests once the transition is completed.

This includes continuing Toll’s community programs that help people overcome drug and alcohol addiction by offering support services and employment opportunities.

"Toll has embraced some community activities…particularly with giving people that have fallen on hard times another opportunity in their respective lives," Little says.

"That’s not just something we decided to do, that’s something I feel very passionate about so I hope to be able to occupy and involve myself more in those areas."

While hopeful of devoting more time to other business interests once his role at Toll ends, Little is adamant his time will not be spent relaxing on the golf course.

"Put it this way, I’m not a golfer so I don’t have to work on my handicap."

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