OTPP hires Chinese ag boss to head Australian offshoot

The Canadian pension has appointed David Goodfellow, former head of the Macquarie Pastoral Fund – hinting that livestock could become part of its mandate Down Under.

The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan has named David Goodfellow as chief executive of Auston, the Canadian pension’s new Australian agriculture subsidiary.

Goodfellow will join from Rifa Salutary, a subsidiary of Chinese machinery maker Zhejiang Rifa Holding Group that he has led since 2014, shortly after the unit was created. OTPP confirmed the hire but declined to comment further on Auston’s future mandate and strategy.

Its new recruit’s pedigree, however, gives clues as to where the $141 billion institution may be thinking of expanding Down Under.

Goodfellow served as chief executive of the Macquarie Pastoral Fund between April 2008 and December 2011, before becoming CEO of Paraway Pastoral Company, a Macquarie-managed group of 21 pastoral enterprises that today have the capacity to run approximately 200,000 cattle and 240,000 sheep.

He then took the helm of Rifa’s efforts to build an Australian portfolio, starting from the ground up to amass nearly 50,000 hectares of grazing and cropping land. The Chinese company’s first acquisition was Blackwood, a 2,500-hectares Victorian grazing company; Rifa went on to deploy a reported $150 million into a mix of agricultural holdings.

The business, which now comprises 22,000 Angus cattle, up to 22,000 sheep and 4,000 hectares of broad-acre cropping, posted a net profit of $7.23 million for the 2017 financial year.

Goodfellow will be tasked with expanding OTPP’s Australian footprint, so far confined to permanent crops. Last December, the pension acquired Jasper Farms, which bills itself as the second-largest Australian avocado producer, for a little less than $180 million.

It had previously bought Aroona Farms, an Australian almond producer, for A$115 million ($91 million; €75 million).