Woolworths names former liquor boss Brad Banducci as CEO; reports first half loss $972m

New Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci takes over an embattled business

New Woolworths’ CEO Brad Banducci takes over an embattled business

The task of rebuilding the battered Woolworths brand has been handed to the former boss of its liquor division, Brad Banducci, who came to the business five years ago.

The announcement came as the retailer posted a $972.7m loss, driven in part by the failure of its Masters Home Improvement joint-venture with Lowes.

Woolworths is being forced to pay out Lowes’ share of the business before it exits the sector later this year. The loss is the first since the company listed on the ASX more than two decades ago.

Earlier this month Woolworths shocked its ad agency, Leo Burnett, by announcing it was returning to its former agency, M&C Saatchi as the business desperately tries to find traction with consumers against strong competition from Coles and the growing influence of German discounter, Aldi.

The marketing of the business has seen a revolving door of leaders over the past three years, with former Coles marketer Tony Phillips departing the role last year, replaced recently by liquor group marketing general manager Andrew Hicks.

Woolworths was also dethroned by Telstra as Australia’s most valuable brand in the 2016 Brand Finance Most Valuable Brands report.

The internal appointment of Banducci, currently managing director of Woolworths’ food group, comes after a worldwide hunt for a new CEO.

Banducci was instrumental in the development of the Dan Murphy’s brand  and has worked across retailing for 15 years.dan murphys logo

Banducci has pledged to bring an entrepreneurial spirit to the role as the business regroups after a disastrous year which, aside from the failure of Masters, included the highly-criticised decision to drop Qantas from its loyalty scheme, an embarrassing social media miscue with the ANZAC veterans’ “Fresh in our memories” campaign and the labelling of home vegetable growers as “freaks”.

“I am an entrepreneur at heart and a retailer by discipline and I want us to take our company back to its best levels of performance,” Banducci said in a statement announcing his appointment.

“My goal as CEO will be to recapture the spirit of innovation and customer focus right across the business, and grow a culture once again where our people feel a strong ownership of the business.”

Out - Grant O'Brien

Out – Grant O’Brien

Banducci’s appointment also marks the departure of CEO Grant O’Brien, whose retirement was announced last year.

Announcing its first half results for the 2016 financial year, Woolworths revealed a loss of $972.7m, down 176%, which included a $125m loss in home improvement, including a $137.9m loss on Masters and a $12.9m profit on Home Timber & Hardware.

While the company said it had made inroads on some objectives, it highlighted areas that still needed to be addressed, including the need to “urgently address the Woolworths’ Rewards in-store ticketing issues” which led to a consumer backlash against changes to its loyalty program.

Simon Canning


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