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Baker McKenzie APAC managing director to head up CPA Australia

The managing director in the Asia-Pacific region for global law firm Baker McKenzie, who was previously the firm’s Australian national managing partner, is set to become the new CEO of Australia’s largest professional accounting body.

user iconPhilip King 13 December 2023 Big Law
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Editor’s note: This story first appeared on Lawyers Weekly’s sister brand, Accountants Daily.

CPA Australia has named Chris Freeland, the Asia-Pacific managing director of global law firm Baker McKenzie, as its next chief executive.

He will commence in the role in March 2024.


Mr Freeland, who has been at the global firm for more than 13 years, has spent much of his career in the legal profession after stints at Gilbert + Tobin, King & Wood (now King & Wood Mallesons) in China, and as a solicitor at Freehills in Melbourne.

He also spent six years at the Boston Consulting Group, including spells in New York, and is the former chair of the Sydney Film Festival.

Mr Freeland said it was a “great privilege” to be appointed the next CEO of the accounting body.

“I’m very much looking forward to leading the team at CPA Australia to support the organisation’s 172,000 members in Australia, and globally, to achieve their unique aspirations and to thrive professionally,” he said.

“CPA Australia has an increasingly important role, particularly at this time, to help represent the accounting profession and those connected to it, and to reinforce its broad and significant contribution to society.”

Mr Freeland will replace Andrew Hunter, who announced his intention to pursue fresh opportunities in Europe in July and will leave in March after six years at the helm.

CPA Australia president and chair Dale Pinto said Mr Freeland had a proven track record of leadership and was an expert in corporate change and transformation with interests in the arts, social welfare, and education.

“Chris is poised to steer our organisation towards new heights,” he said. “Chris is a highly experienced CEO who brings a wealth of global expertise and fresh perspectives that will undoubtedly contribute to the continued success of CPA Australia.”

“Chris will be working with our outgoing CEO, Andrew, on a seamless transition plan. Along with the board, I am confident in his ability to lead and inspire our people and drive innovation and customer-centricity for our members.

“Chris embraces a values-based approach, which aligns with our CPA Australia values, and I look forward to the bright future that lies ahead under his capable leadership.”

The tenure of Mr Hunter as CEO has been characterised by executive turnover, with at least nine high-profile departures involving mutual separation payments adding up to millions since 2018.

Mr Hunter’s publicity-shy approach contrasted markedly with that of his predecessor, Alex Malley, who left under a cloud in 2017 but with a $4.9 million payout. An interim CEO and a raft of Malley loyalists were also paid out when Mr Hunter took over.

Total executive payouts over the six years of Mr Hunter’s reign add up to around $8 million.

After cumulative losses over two years of more than $40 million, CPA Australia has spent the past five months restructuring and implementing a rolling redundancy plan that has culled around 12 per cent of its 600-plus staff.

Insiders say morale is grim, and key departments, such as public practice, have lost years of expertise.