Ohanessian re-appointed on ‘interim’ basis as Praemium CEO

As expected, Michael Ohanessian has returned to his role as chief executive of ASX-listed, Melbourne-based financial platform provider Praemium, in the wake of last Friday’s shareholder vote to replace the company’s board – the latest twist in what observers in Australia say has been one of the country’s most unusual boardroom battles.

The announcement of his re-appointment came in a notice to the stock exchange today, less than three months after Ohanessian’s job with Praemium was abruptly terminated on 22 February, just a week after the company had delivered a 39% EBITDA growth in its half-year results.

It was that termination which, as reported, prompted certain key Praemium investors to call for a change in the company’s management.

Today’s statement said Ohanessian’s “re-appointment” as chief executive officer “has been made under an interim agreement, reflecting his previous commercial terms as Praemium CEO, except for the reduction in the notice period to 30 days”.

The services of Praemium’s acting CEO, Robert De Luca, were formally concluded as of today, the statement added.

It went on: “This interim agreement is to allow the new board sufficient time to review the CEO’s employment conditions
once it has had an opportunity to convene, and to consider whether these terms and conditions are appropriate and in line with market.”

It said a further update would be provided to the market as soon as the review is completed.

The newly-appointed chairman, Barry Lewin, said that for now “the focus of both the board and management is on Praemium’s hard-working team and valued client base.

“We are committed to realising the growth opportunities in front of us and delivering strong returns for shareholders.”

As reported here on Friday, Andre Carstens, Peter Mahler, Robert Edgley and chairman Greg Camm departed Praemium’s board following the shareholders’ vote, and directors Stuart Robertson and Daniel Lipshut, along with the new chairman, Lewin, took their places.

Friday’s vote came after Praemium’s board said in March that it would agree to a dissident shareholders’ request for a general shareholders’ meeting, during which a requested vote on the board would take place.

In today’s statement, the Praemium board thanked De Luca for his contribution as interim chief, making particular note of his “support to management, staff and external stakeholders during the last two months”.

Prior to his termination, Ohanessian had been CEO of Praemium for five years.

Praemium was founded in 2001 in Australia by Arthur Naodoumidis, a former IT consultant, and listed on the ASX in May, 2006. In addition to Australia, it maintains offices in Jersey, Hong Kong and the UK, where it has been present since 2008.

It specialises in separately-managed investment accounts, and says it currently has more than 300,000 active investor accounts, in addition to looking after more than 700 financial institution clients.

Last year, as reported, it acquired Wensley Mackay Ltd, a UK SIPP provider.

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