Henry Canton is out. Up until this morning, Canton was the CEO of the Citrus Products of Belize Limited, the CPBL. For months he came under constant fire from his parent company, Citrus Growers Association, and by noon today, he was terminated but had not been served his official marching orders. Canton says it’s illegal and he is already fighting back. For now, no one has been named as CEO because at the eleventh hour, Henry Anderson, Canton’s nemesis, withdrew his name. News Five’s Isani Cayetano has a report of what went down in the citrus valley today.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
At a little after twelve o’clock this afternoon a roomful of shareholders inside the offices of the Citrus Growers Association concluded an extraordinary general meeting to discuss three important issues. Chief among them was the termination of Dr. Henry Canton as the current CEO of Citrus Products of Belize Limited. Of the sixty-five percent turnout the decision to end Canton’s nine-year tenure as head of operations was both unanimous and final.
Eccleston Irving, Chairman, Citrus Growers Association
“The meeting this morning had three resolutions to be considered by the extraordinary meeting of the company. One was the termination of the CEO, the second one was to appoint a committee to appoint [or] to put in place particulars for the appointment of a new CEO and the third one was to appoint an accounting group, Horwath, to do a feasibility studies of the various lines of CPBL.”
Canton’s notice was to take effect forthwith. A letter had already been drafted and was set to be delivered sometime before the end of the day. When News Five caught up with him Canton was already charting a legal way forward.
Dr. Henry Canton, CEO, Citrus Products of Belize Ltd.
“My next move is one that basically follows the legal process where I am employed by a board of directors therefore the shareholders had a meeting [and] they passed a resolution. It’s in my mind a valid resolution from their meeting; however, it has to be passed through the proper process. It has to go through the board of directors and the board of directors would then inform me of my dismissal. If not they would then, I would think, have to go to the courts to get a court order to have me removed.”
His removal follows several years of consecutive financial losses at CPBL. The products manufactured here aren’t doing well on the foreign market. The problem has been compounded by other allegations of mismanagement. Today’s move, according to Henry Anderson, will unite stakeholders within this severely fractured industry.
Henry Anderson, Exec. Dir., Citrus Growers Association
“First of all it’s not imagination that CGA is the parent company of CPBL. We have an investor in there, Banks Holdings Ltd. and they have rights and we respect that but the performance of the company over the past three years leaves much to be desired. We believe that the leadership of Dr. Canton and the conflict of interest that came along with it unfortunately, when you’re in a situation where the CEO of your company, you know, you see things happening at the company. Products being launched for example Banks beer, you’re a director on the board and that’s how you see it. Profitability [is] in a major downturn. He starts a private company [and] Belize Citrus Mutual is a subscriber to it that is competing with the majority shareholder. So the primary reason for this is the performance of CPBL.”
Canton answered an allegation that over the past three years the company has lost twenty-seven million dollars.
Dr. Henry Canton
“The Citrus Products of Belize Ltd. when we took it over in October of 2002 had a history of losing anywhere between six to ten million dollars annually for the last four, five years. When we took it over my first year we lost about two point two million, the second year we lost about four point two and then we went into four years of profits from which we were able to pay dividends to the shareholders. Year before last, 2009, we did have an eleven million dollar loss but again if you look back at it you will notice that production decreased and the prices were at an all time low again.”
It has been a tumultuous relationship between CPBL and its parent company ever since ending today with a resolution to hire an accounting firm to study the viability of its products lines.
“We are very concerned with the various performance of the lines of CPBL and so therefore we are putting in place particulars to have information for our membership to decide as to how the membership wants to handle their investment and future in CPBL.”
Amidst the internal strife however are the employees of the company. Caleb Wade has been with CPBL for the past nine years.
Caleb Wade, Production Manager, CPBL
“This latest move has caused quite a bit of uneasiness among staff in particular because we have a lot of staff who have been working here for a number of years and I have been working here at this company under previous regimes and we understand the quality of work. The quality of life has changed right. Right now under Dr. Canton’s stewardship we enjoy a much better condition of life, better work environment or a more positive working environment I should say.”
Despite those improvements Canton was nonetheless given the guillotine. He is now taking legal action for what he considers a breach of contract.
Dr. Henry Canton
“I know that many times it has been brought up that how could I be CEO and still sue my company. Well I need people to understand that yes you can be an employee of a company but if that company breaches your contract you have the right to sue the company. I also need to be very clear that my suit is not a suit for damages. My suit is basically for a declaration from the court that my contract has been breached so that then it’s on the record that you’ve breached my contract.”
Following Canton’s termination a new CEO will be sought. Until then the staff is reminded that it will be business as usual notwithstanding the absence of an immediate boss. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.