Former MSA club manager speaks out


Stuart Geddes, former general manager (GM) of the Ashburton Club and MSA, resigned in October this year ahead of a special general meeting where club members held a vote of no confidence in the MSA committee.
He talks to The Ashburton Courier editor Daniel Tobin about events leading up to his departure.
‘‘The misinterpretation of what happened in the two years I was there has caused some distortion, I would like to take this opportunity to set the record straight,’’ he said.
Mr Geddes was hired to oversee the construction of the new club restaurant Noble 600, and soon found a comprehensive budget and cash flow, inclusive of all costs, had not been done.
‘‘What was concerning was the dollar figure of what this rebuild was going to cost, the figure that was presented to members at an AGM was only related to the construction of the building not the interior fit out,’’ he said.
The costs of interior fit out, finish, fitting and equipment were unknown costs to the committee.
During the construction of the restaurant Covid-19 hit causing financial distress and the club needed to apply for a bank loan for the rebuild to continue.
Mr Geddes engaged external organisations to help guide the club through the difficult times.
These included financial and human resource companies, a Christchurch-based information technology firm and external funding from an organisation which allowed the club to engage a company to provide strategic advice.
The Grant Thornton report was also commissioned and looked at a number of areas of the club’s operation.
Clubs New Zealand held two governance sessions to help the committee understand its role and function.
‘‘A lot of engagement with the committee was occurring so the club could set a foundation for prosperity,’’ Mr Geddes said.
This set the ground work for Mr Geddes to transform the club but changes lead to some discontent among members and club staff.
A petition was launched to remove Mr Geddes, which was then retracted as they could not have a vote of no confidence against an employee.
It was then decided to hold a special general meeting to vote on whether the committee should be removed, and over three quarters of those present showed a vote of no confidence.

The Noble 600 restaurant and Ashburton Club and MSA.

Former committee member Maxine Hooper said there was confusion at the meeting with some members not understanding what they were voting for.
‘‘After the meeting some people who voted said the GM is gone, and I said no we’re all gone,’’ Mrs Hooper said.
Mr Geddes said the committee was brave facing a tsunami of issues with good intent.
‘‘They were doing it for no compensation, they stuck it out, they kept going, what was disturbing was the ongoing maligning of the committee,’’ he said.
Mr Geddes was questioned as to why the restaurant build was not in tune with what members wanted. He acknowledged it was an issue.
‘‘I would say most of what has transpired over the last two years sits at my desk. That’s part of being the GM. I was dealing with the ‘cause and effect’ of decisions made previous to my term of office,’’ he said.
‘‘What I dislike is the social media activity which has affected myself and family the most.
‘‘My resignation came about when it became apparent that the physical and mental strain exceeded anything I have ever come across,’’ he said.
Mrs Hooper said when Mr Geddes started he gave the committee information they had not had access to prior.
‘‘It was transparent and coming from a business point of view, basically trying to bring the club into the real world,’’ she said.
Former committee member Sandi Keeling said it was the best committee she had worked on.
‘‘ I just feel I have never been on a committee where I felt as though we were working and its due to Mr Geddes’ guidance and the information he got to us, and the way the committee itself worked together, it is such a shame it finished,’’ she said.
Regarding the future of the MSA club Mr Geddes points to the Grant Thornton document.
‘‘If the Grant Thornton document is not applied, recognised and implemented I would ask, ‘what is the end goal?’ – where will the club be in five years?’’
Mr Geddes is now taking time to reassess his future and has been offered other roles both locally and nationally.

~ By Daniel Tobin