Ex-Powerhouse chair can't be forced off board despite being 'economical with the truth'
By Jonathan Underhill
June 16 (BusinessDesk) – The former chair of Powerhouse Ventures can't be forced off the board without a meeting of shareholders even though the ASX-listed, Christchurch-based technology incubator says he was “economical with the truth” in his application to become a director.
Blair Bryant was made to relinquish the chair by his fellow directors yesterday after the NBR reported this week that he hadn't disclosed that he had previously filed for bankruptcy in the US in 2007 before being discharged from bankruptcy in 2008. Powerhouse spokesman Greg Slade confirmed today that in Bryant's application form, in answer to a specific question about bankruptcy "he ticked no".
Slade said while the board can remove its chair it would need a meeting of shareholders to remove him as a director. “Everyone is considering their positions. It depends if Blair is of a mind to resign. If not, the board will have to consider its position ahead of the AGM in November,” he said. Powerhouse did appropriate due diligence on Bryant's application, he said.
Bryant didn't respond to an email from BusinessDesk and the mobile phone number for Arcadia Pacific, his Wellington-based consultancy, was switched off. Arcadia's address is listed as an apartment on Wellington's Wakefield Street
Powerhouse, which is based in Christchurch, raised A$10.2 million in an initial public offering, with the shares debuting on the ASX at the offer price of A$1.07. At the time, it said the proceeds will largely go to expanding the firm's $20.7 million investment portfolio of early stage companies that were collectively worth $133.6 million.
Since then it has continued to make investments, including up to $450,000 in a new ed-tech software company, EdPotential, spun out of Victoria University’s Faculty of Education, and Objective Acuity, a spin-out from the University of Auckland that has developed a revolutionary eye technology. Among other investments is CropLogic, a Christchurch-based developer of technology that allows farmers to more accurately control inputs such as fertiliser and water, and Syft Technologies, a gas analysis firm it sold out of last month.
Powerhouse received funding from Callaghan Innovation as did some of the start-ups it invested in such as CropLogic.
A Callaghan spokesman said today that the innovation funding agency's relationship with Powerhouse "remains unchanged following the resignation of Mr Bryant. They continue to provide technology incubator services under the pilot scheme."
The biggest shareholder in Powerhouse is Christchurch City Council-owned Canterbury Development Corp (CDC) with 22.5 percent. CDC chief executive Tom Hooper didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
(BusinessDesk receives assistance from Callaghan Innovation to cover the commercialisation of innovation.)