Egon Zehnder Heading CEO Search for Woolworths

September 10, 2015 – Woolworths has retained Egon Zehnder to lead its search for a new chief executive officer. The firm will find a replacement for outgoing chief Grant O’Brien and at least one more non-executive director. Interviews are expected to commence this month.

Woolworths’ newly appointed chairman Gordon Cairns has sacrificed three non-executive director roles to devote more time to finding a new chief executive, as the retailer faces its biggest challenges since listing publicly 22 years ago.

Mr. Cairns told The Australian Financial Review that he had given up his advisory role at management consulting firm McKinsey & Co and had stepped down as a non-executive director at fast-food operator Quick Service Restaurant Group and not-for-profit group World Education Australia to ensure he could devote at least three days a week to Woolworths. He has yet to decide if retail experience is a prerequisite to making the CEO short list, but says Woolworths’ next CEO must have leadership skills, a view backed by investors such as Angus Aitken, managing director of institutional equities at Bell Potter.

“They need a new CEO that isn’t a plodder,” said Mr. Aitken. “The last few CEOs of Woolworths have been completely uninspiring as retailers in my view. The better CEOs of the past were genuine retailers like Roger Corbett, Paul Simon and Reg Clairs.”

Woolworths is a supermarket/grocery store chain in Australia, owned by Woolworths Limited. The store mostly specializes in selling food (vegetables, fruit, meat, packaged foods, etc.), but they also sell magazines, DVDs and stationery items among other things. Woolworths currently operates 872 stores across Australia

Egon Zehnder specializes in the recruitment and leadership solutions business with more than 400 consultants operating from 41 countries, according to analysts at Hunt Scanlon Media. The firm’s CEO succession practice includes a team of consultants who bring global best practices rigor to fulfilling top level chief executive assignments.

Egon Zehnder has recently placed David Stevenson as CEO of the Western Bulldogs as well as Casper von Koskull as CEO of Nordea. The firm is currently leading chief executive searches for Adidas, Warren Resources, and Standard Chartered Plc., among others.

Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media

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