Casting a long shadow: Doug Rathbone made a shock exit from Nufarm yesterday.WAS that blood seeping out from under the CEO’s door at Nufarm, or was now former boss Doug Rathbone just sharing a farewell red with his long-time chairman, Donald McGauchie?

We shouldn’t read too much into the fact that the weed and bug killer’s boss stepped down with no warning on Wednesday after 15 years as CEO, and with no permanent replacement.

Or, the fact that he received a $1.643 million “termination payment” on top of his statutory entitlements.

And it isn’t like McGauchie has form. He swears that he did not – in his role as AACo chairman – dispatch the beef farmer’s chief, David Farley, to its abattoirs in 2013.

“Doug believes that new leadership can bring a fresh perspective and energy to driving important change in the business. Doug and the board have agreed that now is the right time to make a change to new leadership,” McGauchie said in a statement from Nufarm.

I wonder whether it would have been the same outcome if Rathbone hadn’t been forced to sell down his 18 per cent stake in Nufarm in recent years to support his rather expensive wine hobby, which soaked up an estimated $100 million as he acquired wineries like Yering Station, Xanadu and Mount Langi Ghiran.

The share sales certainly caught the attention of his fellow investors.

In May 2011 Rathbone was forced to explain to the market that a $23.7 million share sale to Japan’s Sumitomo Chemical Company at an 11 per cent premium to the prevailing share price “avoids any market disruption that might result from the on-market sale of Nufarm shares owned by me”.

In March and April 2010 he offloaded $94 million worth of shares at up to $14 a share. Not long after, the debt-laden Nufarm announced a profit downgrade which sent the stock below $4.

A real point of interest is whether the ASX forces Nufarm to revisit a speeding ticket it issued last week after Nufarm’s shares rocketed from $5.04 to $6 in a matter of days.

Nufarm said at the time that it was not aware of any information in its possession that would explain this sudden surge in share price and trading volumes.

Nufarm also announced a $100 million cost reduction program on Wednesday. Just saying.

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