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Tony Falkenstein to take over as JWI boss, as Ian Ormiston quits

Tony Falkenstein, founder and majority owner of Just Water International, will take over as head of the water cooler and supplies business after chief executive Ian Ormiston resigned.

Falkenstein will take up the role of managing director to replace the outgoing Ormiston, as the Auckland-based company makes plans to de-list from the NZX once the founder's takeover is complete, it said in a statement. Through his vehicle the Harvard Group, Falkenstein is offering shareholders 15 cents a share for the 29.3 percent of the firm he doesn't control, valuing Just Water at $13.42 million. As at Nov. 26 Harvard Group held 75.3 percent, while the shares on the NZ Alternative Index last traded at 17 cents.

"Harvard JV's stated plan to delist JWI from the stock exchange and continued focus on cost reduction means that the remit for the CEO role has significantly changed from the time of Ian's appointment in 2013," chairman Paul Connell said. "In view of the need for on-going cost reduction recently signalled by the board, it has decided to take the opportunity to combine the role of CEO and the role of founder director filled by Tony Falkenstein."

Ormiston joined as chief executive in September last year, according to the company's website, taking over from Falkenstein, who founded the company in 1987. Falkenstein hit the headlines earlier this year after being named in Nicky Hager's book 'Dirty Politics' as a target of Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater, claimed to have been at the behest of Food and Grocery Council boss Katherine Rich, something the group denied, after he was named as the New Zealand contact for Australian lawyers considering a class action against cola companies in relation to the health impact of sugary drinks.

Last month, Just Water's independent directors unanimously recommended shareholders accept the founder's bid which was near the bottom end of independent advisers KordaMentha's range of between 14.7 cents to 16.8 cents a share, below the last trading price of 15.5 cents, but ahead of a 14.6 cents per share conditional offer by the unidentified overseas buyer.

The independent directors reasoned Just Water was currently face competitive trading conditions and has "so far been unable to arrest a decline in revenue," in a target company statement on the NZX. Despite earlier approaches from three different parties, and a final non-binding 14.6 cents per share conditional offer, the independent directors said it was unlikely a more attractive offer would be made to shareholders.

Falkenstein has said if his takeover is successful, he plans to run the company largely on existing lines, cutting costs and using surplus cash to reduce debt. In announcing the takeover in October, he stressed he is not in discussions with either the prospective overseas water-cooler company or the local party who wants to buy the assets, and leave the company as a shell.