Our Board of Directors are committed to building a world-class nutritional business and the enhancement of shareholder value. Find out more about them and their proven track record of dairy industry and governance experience.

Graeme Milne ONZM

Chair (Independent)

Graeme joined the Synlait Group as a director in 2006. With extensive experience, his career in the dairy industry has seen him working in New Zealand, Australia and Europe. He is the Chairman of Synlait Milk Limited and Synlait Milk Finance Limited.

Graeme was appointed CEO of Bay Milk Products in 1992, and has held several leadership roles since then. This included CEO of the New Zealand Dairy Group, prior to the formation of Fonterra, and interim CEO of Richmond Limited and Bonlac Limited in Australia.

Graeme holds several other governance roles with a range of organisations. He is the chairman of Terracare Fertilisers Ltd, Pacific T and R Ltd, Nyriad Ltd and he chairs Advisory Boards for Pro-Form Ltd and Rimanui Farms Ltd. He is also a director of FMG, Alliance Group Ltd and Genesis Energy Ltd.

Dr John Penno

Managing Director and CEO

John co-founded the Synlait Group in 2000 and has been a full-time executive for the Synlait Group since 2006. As CEO, John is responsible for setting the strategic direction of the company and supporting the Senior Leadership Team to deliver against this direction in their areas. As Managing Director, John contributes to the governance of Synlait alongside our Directors on the Board. After completing an Agricultural Science degree, John commenced his career in the dairy industry as a consulting officer for the New Zealand Dairy Board before joining Dexcel as a research scientist where he completed a PhD in animal science. As a scientist and research program leader he worked to enable New Zealand dairy farmers to increase productivity and profit. In 2009, John received an emerging leader’s award from the Sir Peter Blake Trust and the Excellence in Leadership award at the 2015 New Zealand International Business Awards.

Bill Roest

Non-Executive Director (Independent)

Bill was appointed to the Synlait Milk Board in May 2013.

Bill’s long and varied career included 12 years as Chief Financial Officer of Fletcher Building Limited until April 2013. He has held several leadership roles in New Zealand’s corporate sector, including Managing Director of Fletcher Residential and Fletcher Aluminium.

Bill is also a director of Housing Foundation Limited, Metro Performance Glass and Fisher and Paykel Appliances Holdings Limited, where he chairs the Audit Committee.

Bill is a member of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand and is a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (UK).

Sam Knowles

Non-Executive Director (Independent)

Sam has held senior executive positions in major banks in both Australia and New Zealand, and is currently a director of Synlait Milk Limited and Synlait Milk Finance Limited.

He has extensive experience in private and public sector governance, with more than 12 years on several boards of NZX listed companies. He had a key role in establishing Kiwibank, leading the company from being a start-up to a large successful business.

Sam’s governance roles focus on growth businesses. He is a director of TrustPower and Opus both NZX listed companies. Sam is also Chairman of Partners Life, On-Brand Partners and Adminis as well as a director of Magritek and Rangatira.

Hon. Ruth Richardson

Non-Executive Director

A professional company director, Ruth specialises in agribusiness, commercialising innovation and finance. Ruth joined the Synlait Group as the first independent director in 2004.

Ruth was the Member of Parliament for Selwyn (Synlait’s local electorate) from 1981 – 1984 and later New Zealand’s Minister of Finance from 1990 to 1993.

Following her political career, Ruth established herself as a public policy consultant and accepted a range of corporate governance roles. Ruth is currently Chair SYFT Technologies Limited, Kiwi Innovation Network Limited (Kiwinet), The New Zealand Merino Company and the Kula Fund Advisory.

She is a director of Synlait Milk Limited, Synlait Milk Finance Limited and the Bank of China (NZ).

Previous governance roles include Dairy Brands, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand and Wrightson Limited. Ruth holds a Bachelor of Laws (with honours) from the University of Canterbury.

Sihang Yang

Bright Dairy appointed Director

Yang was appointed a director of Synlait Milk in August 2010. With 20 years of industry experience, he is Bright Dairy and Food Co.’s director of strategy and research and director of several Bright Dairy subsidiaries.

Yang previously worked for Heilongjiang Dairy Group as the director of technology and subsequently as the director of quality assurance. He was later appointed the secretary-general of Heilongjiang Dairy Industry Association and a Director of China Dairy Industry Association.

Yang is currently a director of Synlait Milk Limited and Synlait Milk Finance Limited. He holds a Master’s Degree in food science and engineering.

Qikai Lu

Bright Dairy appointed Director

Bright Dairy appointed Qikai to represent them on the Synlait Board in December 2015.

Qikai joined Bright in 2011 and has advised Bright on business and governance matters regarding Synlait since. He is the Deputy Director of International Business Development for Bright and is responsible for all overseas project management and communications.

He holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and is a member of the Chinese Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Min Ben


Min was appointed a director of Synlait Milk in November 2016. Min joined Bright Dairy in 2001 and holds a master degree of Business Administration.
She was formerly the assistant to the Bright Dairy CEO and was a regional HR director. Ms Ben is currently the PR director of Bright Dairy.