Fonterra's long-standing chairman John Wilson has stepped down from his role after a serious health scare in July.
Mr Wilson will remain a Fonterra director until the cooperative’s annual meeting in November, when he will retire from the board.
Fonterra shareholders council chairman Duncan Coull says Wilson's decision was surprising.
"The news that John had been through a health scare and was needing to focus on recovery was the real shock," he told RadioLIVE.
Mr Coull added that the shareholders are pleased John is doing the right thing for his family by focusing on recovery, and are thankful for his lengthy service.
The company said in a statement that Wilson had undergone a significant surgery within the last month and would require ongoing treatment.
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Mr Wilson's decision also comes after public criticism of Fonterra by MPs Shane Jones and Winston Peters.
Mr Jones, who's also Regional Development Minister, called Mr Wilson out at Fieldays in June, suggesting he should "catch the next cab out of town".
Deputy Prime Minister Mr Peters said at a later date that "heads should roll" at Fonterra following their massive losses this year.
John Monaghan, a member of the board since 2008, has taken over as chairman.
Watch the full interview with Duncan Coull above.