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Mohan Pandithage to become chief of "sleeping giant’’

Mr. Abeyakumar Mohan Pandithage, 58, with a 40-year career at Hayleys under his belt, takes over as Chairman/CEO of a conglomerate widely regarded as "a sleeping giant" from Mr. N.G. (Tanky) Wickremeratne, 62, on July 1.

Wickremeratne who was responsible for making Dipped Products, a Hayleys subsidiary, into one of the world’s biggest non-medical rubber glove manufacturing companies, is retiring at a time when the group’s manufacturing businesses are feeling the bite of an unfavourable exchange rate.

Pandithage, after the late Mr. D.S. Jayasundera, will become the first head of Hayleys with a background outside the company’s export manufacturing sector. He joined Hayleys Steamer Agency Department as a trainee in 1969 and became General Manager of the Shipping and Logistics segment now styled Hayleys Advantis Limited.

In 1981 he was appointed a director of Hayleys Advantis and its Managing Director in 1988 joining the group’s executive directorate in 1996.

In 1998 he was appointed to the Hayleys main board and appointed Deputy Chairman of the company in 2007.

Mr. Lal Jayasundera, a major shareholder as well as the legendary Chairman of Hayleys before his premature death, was succeeded as chairman of the group by Mr. Sunil Mendis who ran the group’s fibre related businesses.

Mendis was succeeded by Mr. Rajan Yatawara who was the creator and successful driver of Haycarb into a world class multinational while Tanky Wickremeratne, who did likewise for Dipped Products, succeeded Yatawara.

Pandithage, the son of the late Mr. P.D. Alexander (one of the founders of Dimo into which Hayleys bought in some years ago and sold out last year), is the first contemporary chairman of the group with a background outside the manufacturing sector.

Business analysts however noted Hayleys Advantis which Pandithage has long run has been one of the group’s major revenue and profit generators during recent years when its export led companies suffered a downturn due to reasons outside their control.

Wickremeratne’s contract ends on June 30 and the decision to bring Pandithage to the top job in the conglomerate was taken following a meeting of the Hayleys nomination committee chaired by Wickremaratne and comprising Messrs. Dhammika Perera, a 21% shareholder of Hayleys and its single largest equity holder, Lalith Godamunne (who is married into the Jayasundera family), Trevine Fernando and Jayampathy Bandaranayake.

There was speculation in business circles that Mr. Nimal Perera, Dhammika Perera’s investment advisor and a board member in several Perera controlled quoted companies, will shortly join the Hayleys board succeeding Mr. P.S.P.S. Perera who is retiring.

Well informed sources said that Dhammika Perera has been taking hands on interest in the activities of the Hayleys group since his investment in Hayleys and has visited group factories.

The Perera group had also been helpful in settling a recent strike in a Dipped Products factory in Sri Lanka, these sources said.

The new Hayleys Chief was a past student of Ananda College, Colombo and he is married to Rohini, daughter of Mr. Donald Wijeyaratna of Donald’s Studio.

One of his sisters, Manthri, is the wife of Mr. Sunil Mendis who became Governor of the Central Bank after retiring as Hayleys chief and his brother, Ranjith, is Chairman/CEO of Dimo.

Pandithage has been a past Chairman of the Ceylon Association of Steamer Agents, director of Sri Lanka Ports Authority and the Jaya Container Terminals Limited as well as a director of the Sri Lanka Ports Management Consultancy Services Limited.

He is credited for developing the group’s transportation and logistic business under the Hayleys Advantis banner with this company now employing over 1,000 people in 35 companies.

Hayleys Advantis is one of the largest organizations here in shipping and international freight forwarding with overseas operations including subsidiaries in the USA, India and Fiji and representative offices in Europe, Hong Kong and the Maldives.

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