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The sleepy Woolies board

grantWoolworths chairman, Gordon Cairns, admitted last week that leadership uncertainty was affecting the share price. He continued that Woolworths would not be “rushed” in its search for a replacement for CEO, Grant O’Brien who resigned on June 17!

“Getting the right person is more important than getting someone tomorrow,” Cairns said.

Gordon, with respect am I missing something here?

Admissions and apologies galore! It reminds one of Fawlty Towers with Basil agreeing with the guests how hopeless his staff are. This tactic is designed to take the wind out of the sails of the justifiably annoyed shareholders.

Woolworths has had more than five months to find a replacement for Grant. What has the board been doing? Firstly, why did Woolworths not have a succession plan and secondly how many candidates are there worldwide who can handle a job like this?

Doing a global search may be a place to start but presumably this is being carefully considered. After all, there is no need to rush.

Retail is a dynamic, fast moving industry. Having a chairman and a board reminiscent of Rip Van Winkle is simply not good enough. (Rip Van Winkle – a colonial British-American villager around the time of the American Revolutionary War slept for 100 years to escape his nagging wife).

And where is the esteemed Roger Corbett? (who apparently earns $700k pa for a day a week).

Leaked stories suggest that morale at Woolworths is at an all time low. Senior executives have been advised to leave their ivory tower and visit stores. Quite a novel idea! That is, those who are still there.

Stuart Bennie is a retail consultant at Impact Retailing and can be contacted at or 0414 631 702.

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