HUON CEO distances himself from JBS scandals, bullies Tasmanian government
Here are relevant extracts from Reporter Mark Di Stefano's article (Australian Financial Review, 31 May 2023):
When JBS Meats snatched Aussie salmon farmer Huon Aquaculture for $425 million out from under the nose of Andrew Forrest in 2021, the scandal-prone Brazilian meat giant eventually found the proper person to lead the company. They tapped baby-faced Brazilian Henry Batista to oversee the Aussie fish operations last year. Henry happens to be the son of disgraced former JBS SA chairman Wesley Batista.
The Batista empire has an almost awe-inspiring attraction to corporate and political scandal. The pinnacle of which was achieved when JBS's investment company paid an eye-watering $4.5 billion fine in 2017 after its then-leaders Wesley and Joesley Batista were found to have bribed 1829 Brazilian politicians. Questions about corporate chicanery have rightly plagued JBS for years. So up steps Henry, whose time has come to take the mic and distance himself — and his family's business — from its roots.
"I never had any connection to the problems we had previously," he remarked. "It was a different time."
A different time? Henry, your self-constructed resume begins with entering the family business in 2015. According to a US indictment, the bribery spanned 2005 to 2017. And no "connections to the problems"? Henry, one of the people doing the bribes was your father.
No one is saying Henry took any part in the criminal scheme, whatsoever. But questions about how JBS was able to get a foothold in the lucrative global meat and food industry remain relevant. Particularly, when one of the scheme's offspring has been parachuted into running a major Australian aquaculture company.
By his own admission, Henry is a fish-farming novice – "for this last 10 months, for me, it is really trying to learn". One might get the impression that one of the reasons the Brazilian salmon scion got his job is that his last name is Batista.
Henry attacked the Tasmanian government's new salmon farming regulations, which will see the costs associated with managing the industry borne by producers. He said if the regulations weren't weakened the company would look to invest elsewhere, which would be a "huge loss for the state".
Predictably, the comments sparked a meltdown among Tasmanian environmentalists. Neighbours of Fish Farming president Peter George called them "blackmail", adding, "JBS is now turning its sights on the fragile minority Tasmanian government, demanding concessions with barely concealed threats."
The regulations are due to come into force in July. Henry's puff-out-the-chest big boy CEO routine appears only to have enraged greenies and led to Liberal premier Jeremy Rockliff standing by the reforms.