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Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  16 Mar 2012

RETAILING: Still More Shake-Ups At PnP


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NO, this is not a reprint from last month. Struggling retail group Pick n Pay continues to ring the changes at senior management level – although this time some changes may have clanged rather ominously.

Only weeks after Pick n Pay announced the appointment of internationally renowned retail specialist Helmut Hoertz as head of merchandising, the company rocked the business community with an announcement that likeable (and respected) CEO Nick Badminton would step down.

The business press has enjoyed a field day speculating whether Badminton was pushed or stepped away (perhaps exhausted by the uphill struggle to restore Pick n Pay’s competitiveness against astute competitors like Shoprite, Spar and Woolworths).

Whatever the reason for Badminton’s resignation, the development does come in the middle of one of the most challenging transformations in Pick n Pay’s corporate existence. In the last year Badminton drove several key developments – most notably the launch of the company’s loyalty programme (smart shopper, where almost 5 million customers have been signed up), the disposal of the Australian burden (Franklins) and a rather impressive negotiated settlement with SACCAWU to increase workforce flexibility.

One might have expected Badminton to wait around to reap the rewards of these initiatives.

In a statement issued after his resignation Badminton clearly tried to discount notions that he was jumping off a horse midstream.

I feel that I’ve now completed what I set out to do and looking ahead, it’s an appropriate time for the board to select a new CEO, and with the executive team, to continue rolling out and embedding the changes the business needs to make,” he said.

There’s not much else Badminton could have said – although a ‘deep’ reading between the lines might lead to an ominous interpretation of “embedding the changes the business needs to make”.

Change is never easy in a large corporate – especially one that for so long had been dominated by its founder (discount retail doyen Raymond Ackerman). Perhaps it was the very changes at Pick n Pay that prompted Badminton to quit?

Badminton’s shock resignation was followed shortly by the appointment of Rod Salmon as divisional manager of General Merchandise.

Salmon, like Hoertz, comes with international experience – having worked for the Numis Group in the UK, an investment and institutional stock broking firm. Salmon held the position of retail research director, and was instrumental in leading the consumer team in growing their market share in corporate finance and trading.

Previously Salmon was commercial director within the Massmart Group.

The appointment of Hoerz and Salmon might hint that Badminton’s successor could be head-hunted offshore.

The fact that Badminton opted to depart without Pick n Pay having a successor in the wings suggests the CEO’s decision to leave was rather sudden. Pick n Pay do have former Massmart executive Richard van Rensburg (last year appointed as deputy CEO in charge of transformation) to fill Badminton’s operational duties in the interim.

Perhaps more interesting is that a member of the Ackerman family, which still holds control of Pick n Pay, returns – technically speaking – taking charge of the company once more.

According to Pick n Pay, during the global search for a new CEO, chairman Gareth Ackerman will move to executive chairman.

In this role he will be responsible for company strategy and “working with the leadership team to embed the changes in the business, while preparing the company for succession”.

Ackerman said the search for a new CEO would include internal candidates and external candidates, both local and international. Insiders reckon the process could take up to six months.

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