Kennards Hire  has announced John Thorn, who serves on the boards of some of Australia’s largest companies, as the new chairman of the equipment hire company.

His appointment completes a carefully-planned succession process, and positions Kennards strategically for an exciting new era of development.

The equipment hire company began as a backyard business 62 years ago and is still owned by the Kennard family. They operate in over 100 general and specialist equipment hire centres across Australia.

Mr Thorn replaces Gordon Howlett who played a pivotal role in the company’s growth during his 14 years as chairman of the board.

The succession plan, which was conducted over three years, also saw Angus Kennard replace his father, Andy, as the family’s representative on the board and John Tolmie, the former chief executive of confectionary company Darrell Lea, take over from Peter Lancken as chief executive.

Mr Thorn is a professional accountant and has more than 37 years experience with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), including more than 20 years as a partner responsible for significant international and Australian clients. He was also the national managing partner of PWC. He embarked on a new career as a professional director seven years ago and now serves on the boards of National Australia Bank, Caltex, Amcor and Salmat.

Mr Thorn said directorship of a private company “wasn’t on my radar” at the time he was approached to take on the chairman’s role at Kennards.

“What convinced me were the Kennards’ people, the company’s reputation in the marketplace and its future prospects,” he said.

Chief executive John Tolmie paid tribute to departing chairman Gordon Howlett and former chief executive, Peter Lancken, who stepped down last year.

“Gordon and Peter were a formidable team and the business flourished under their leadership,” he said.