Ports corporation chief's services 'no longer required'
GLADSTONE Ports Corporation chief executive Leo Zussino has been told his services are no longer required.
His contract will not be renewed when it ends in August. Mr Zussino made no secret of his desire to continue in the role for "a number of years", but accepted the board's decision on Thursday.
He said he looked forward to working hard over the final five months in his role.
A search will now begin for his replacement.
Mr Zussino would not comment on suggestions his axing was a political move by the Queensland Government.
He is a Labor Party member and from the moment Premier Campbell Newman won government, people have speculated his days were numbered.
Mr Zussino said he had not been told there were political motivations behind the decision and said he had always kept his political beliefs separate from his working life.
"It was decided that there was an issue in succession planning (for GPC) and a new CEO had to come in some time. I am devoted to the port. I would have been happy to stay," Mr Zussino said.
"But there comes a time when there needs to be change and the chairman and the board decided that (this year) is the time."
Whatever the reasons for Mr Zussino's exit, the decision brings to an end one of Gladstone's most famous leaderships.
Mr Zussino's supporters describe him as a visionary leader driven by social ideals.
His critics, and there are plenty, describe him as authoritarian, an industrial apologist responsible for environmental damage.
Mr Zussino spoke of his pride in what the ports had achieved over the years.
"Two decades ago, Gladstone had 15% youth unemployment. Parents used to come to me and say, 'Leo, what is my child going to do when they leave school?'
"I can assure you today, no parent asks that question.
"We have over full employment in Gladstone. We have guaranteed prosperity. We are recession-proofed and the port has played a very large role in that."
GPC chairman Mark Brodie said a search would begin soon for a new chief executive officer to replace Mr Zussino in September.
Mr Zussino has had a 21-year involvement with the ports corporation, first as chairman for nine years followed by 12 years as CEO.
In an email announcing the news, Mr Zussino said he "had offered the corporation the opportunity for me to stay to complete the transition of GPC into an organisation capable of accommodating the 60mtpa of new trade resulting from the LNG industry, the Wiggins Island Coal Terminal and increased coal exports from existing terminals".
"However, in the interest of leadership succession planning, it was decided that there was benefit in the new CEO being fully immersed in the significant transformation process underway at GPC, to ensure our ports accommodate the additional 60mtpa in an orderly manner," he said.
Mr Zussino's employment contract expires on August 31.
"I take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank Leo for the good work he has done during his time at Gladstone Ports Corporation," Mr Brodie said.
"His passion and determination towards his role is well known and, to this end, he has placed Gladstone Ports Corporation in a strong position going forward.
"In recent years, the port has experienced strong growth, and Leo and his team have implemented and overseen strategies that will allow the organisation to successfully deal with what is anticipated to be a significant increase in trade through the port in the coming years."
The GPC plans to have an interim CEO in place by June so the new CEO can work alongside Mr Zussino until the end of August to help ensure a smooth transition.