New year, new boss: IGA operator Metcash kicks off 2024 with leadership refresh

IGA operator Metcash is ringing in the new year with a number of executive changes including former Premier Investments and JB Hi-Fi CEO Richard Murray taking the helm of hardware brand Total Tools, a new boss for its liquor division, and a new chief financial officer on deck.

Murray led retail billionaire Solly Lew’s portfolio of brands, which includes Smiggle, Peter Alexander, Jay Jays and Just Jeans, from 2021 to 2023. He announced his surprise resignation in August, which is said to be unrelated to the company’s review into demerging Smiggle and Peter Alexander.

Richard Murray, who has held CEO positions at Premier Investments and JB Hi-Fi, has been appointed to lead Metcash’s Total Tools brand.
Richard Murray, who has held CEO positions at Premier Investments and JB Hi-Fi, has been appointed to lead Metcash’s Total Tools brand.Credit: Eamon Gallagher

Prior to that, he led JB Hi-Fi from 2014 to 2020. Murray will begin in his new role at the end of January and will replace Paul Dumbrell, who has been CEO at Total Tools for more than five years.

“[Murray] has a huge passion for the sector and Total Tools, both as a retailer and a serious tools and DIY enthusiast,” said Metcash chief executive Doug Jones.

“Importantly, Richard’s deep retail experience and proven track record ideally positions him to play an integral role in the continued success of Total Tools as the number one player in the Australian professional tools market.”

The company’s share price ticked up slightly on the leadership announcement, rising 1 per cent at lunchtime.

On top of operating independent grocery network IGA, Metash has a hardware business of Total Tools and IHG that make up 42 per cent of total earnings, as well as a liquor business comprising the Cellarbrations, The Bottle-O and Porters Liquor brands.

Metcash has appointed a new chief executive, Kylie Wallbridge, to this division. Wallbridge is currently the managing director of alcohol drinks giant Diageo, based in the United Kingdom, and previously occupied the same role in Japan. She is a former long-time executive of Heineken and Lion, where she worked across Africa, Asia and Australia for a combined 20 years.

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Wallbridge takes over from Chris Baddock, who retired last October due to health reasons. She will commence in the role from March and take the reins from John Barakat, who has been acting as liquor CEO.

Jones said Wallbridge had a track record for delivering results and welcomed her to the Metcash team.

“Her alignment to our purpose of championing successful independents and her passion for people is evident through her strong relationships with both retailers and suppliers. I have no doubt Kylie will be a great asset to the Liquor pillar and Metcash more broadly.”

Liquor accounts for 20 per cent of Metcash’s earnings, while Total Tools accounts for 17 per cent.

E&P Capital retail analyst Phillip Kimber described both Murray and Wallbridge as “very experienced executives” and noted Murray will be familiar to ASX investors, having led the larger Premier Retail Investment and JB Hi-Fi businesses, which are valued at $4.3 billion and $5.8 billion respectively. Metcash’s market capitalisation is $3.5 billion.

Meanwhile, Jones will be occupied this week with onboarding the company’s new chief financial officer, Deepa Sita, whose appointment was announced to the market in July.

Sita was most recently the chief financial officer of Africa’s largest fast-moving consumer goods company, Tiger Consumer Brands, and before that was a senior executive at a South African subsidiary of Walmart. She also occupied senior finance roles with Cadbury maker Mondelez and Samsung South Africa.

Sita begins her new role this year and takes over from Alistair Bell, who retires from the company but will stay on until the end of February to help with the transition.

Jones has been contacted for comment.

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