RETIRING Elders managing director Malcolm Jackman is keen to keep his hand in agribusiness, despite bowing out earlier than expected after five turbulent years at the helm of the farm services business.
Mr Jackman, 61, who is also chairman of mining services company SubZero and has other business interests, cleaned out his desk at Elders in Adelaide last week with plans to follow up several new job options in the new year.
He is moving back to Sydney where he bought a house in October in anticipation of his departure from Elders, originally tipped for early next year.
"I'm excited about agriculture. It's obviously got great future prospects and it's been great to be part of the industry," he said.
"I like the style of business you get in ag.
"I'd like to think I could keep up some involvement - I've certainly learnt so much and had so many experiences being with Elders I'd be keen to take that further if the right prospects emerge."
Mr Jackman conceded there was a degree of sadness about being "the bloke responsible" for seriously rationalising the once mighty Elders conglomerate.
"But there's also a degree of satisfaction in being able to drag the old girl back from the brink," he said.
Elders debts of more than $1.2 billion had helped bankroll a complex corporate structure which spanned everything from its agricultural agency network to feedlots, forest investment schemes, a bank, aquaculture and automotive parts.
The Elders empire's shares were worth more than $23 each at their peak, but began a 99 per cent downward spiral when the global financial crisis hit in 2008.
It now has a share market capitalisation value of just $50.1 million.
With the business stripped back to its agricultural service roots and still posting trading losses, this week's share price dipped slightly lower to about 11.5 cents on news of Mr Jackman's decision to leave.
He said the company still had challenges ahead, but he was proud it had survived the worst.
At times its fate had looking far less confident than today.
"I do feel uneasy about walking out on the people across the business who have worked so hard to keep the company going, but I think the time is right for me to move on," he said.
Mr Jackman, whose current business ties also include the chairmanship of Coates Hire's UK, New Zealand and Indonesian operations, said he did not expect his work commitments to be "easing up" for some time.
Elders hopes to find a successor by the end of March next year after considering existing management and outside candidates.