Woolworths: CEO Luscombe out, Grant O’Brien in

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 4th April 2011

Woolworths logoWoolworths today confirmed the retirement of CEO Michael Luscombe, and his replacement by the company’s Chief Operating Officer for Australian Food and Petrol, Grant O’Brien.

Speculation began late last year that Luscombe, who helmed the company through the GFC and the post-stimulus-package slowdown, was planning to retire. Today’s announcement confirms that Luscombe will hand over the reins on October 1st – his fifth anniversary as CEO.

The Board of Woolworths Limited has today announced the intended retirement of CEO and Managing Director Michael Luscombe on 30th September 2011, and the nomination of Grant O’Brien, Chief Operating Officer, Australian Food and Petrol, as his successor.

Effective today, Mr Grant O’Brien, 49, becomes Deputy Chief Executive Officer and CEO designate. He will join the Board as an Executive Director and will work closely with Michael Luscombe until his formal commencement date on 1st October, which will be the fifth anniversary of Mr Luscombe’s appointment as CEO.

O’Brien, a 24-year veteran of Woolworths, was instrumental in a number of the company’s major projects, including Australia’s first supermarket loyalty scheme, and involvement in the company’s liquor strategy and new home improvement venture. The company highlighted his reputation for “highly innovative, customer-focused growth strategies” as a key point on O’Brien’s resume.

Woolworths Ltd Chairman James Strong congratulated O’Brien on his appointment.

“He will be a highly capable successor to Michael and is extremely well regarded at all levels of the company, and known for his tremendous energy and determination. His depth and diversity of experience and strong strategic acumen has given him solid grounding to lead Woolworths into its next phase of growth.”

“It is especially pleasing to appoint our 12th CEO from within the ranks of the company. Woolworths’ ability to consistently develop its own talent has long been a defining characteristic of the company. The Board looks forward to working closely with Grant to continue delivering solid, sustainable results over the long term for our customers, communities, suppliers, investors and employees,” added Strong.

Commenting on his appointment, O’Brien said: “I am immensely honoured to receive this opportunity and would like to thank the Woolworths Board for having confidence in my ability to continue Michael’s legacy. I see myself as being very much an example of everything Woolworths stands for today in terms of having a strong supermarket grounding but with a diversity of experience across our broader portfolio of businesses.”

Strong said that during his tenure as CEO, Luscombe has achieved a tripling in group EBIT, driven annual sales through $50 billion, and overseen a 68% increase in shareholder returns. He has spearheaded diversification in the business and a strong corporate responsibility agenda.

“The Board is deeply appreciative of the outstanding leadership Michael has provided Woolworths Limited, particular as CEO. His 33 years of service with the company have been nothing short of exemplary.”