Woolies plays down CEO exit talk

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 28th February 2011

Woolworths Ltd has once again played down speculation that its chief executive Michael Luscombe is preparing to stand down from his post.Reports have dogged Woolworths over the past month that Luscombe is looking to retire.

In an interview at the beginning of February, Luscombe noted that “all of us will retire at some time”. The comment sparked speculation that the Woolworths MD and CEO will stand aside, particularly given the mounting pressure that the supermarket operator is coming under from a resurgent Coles, its nearest competitor.

The company has since made several moves to rebuff such speculation and insisted on Friday that any management change would come in accordance with Woolworths’ established process for succession planning.

Woolworths chairman James Strong said that – following the established practice – this plan would see a CEO selected and announced “well in advance” of the planned succession taking place, with lead time for a transition process and some overlap.

In a separate announcement today, Woolworths revealed group net profit hit the low end of its target range, rising 6% for the 27 weeks ended January 2011. Chief executive Michael Luscombe described this as a “sound result given the macro economic and market challenges”.
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