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Facing the blowtorch over supermarket pricing scandal, Woolies boss to step down

Woolworths will have its first female chief executive after incumbent Brad Banducci announced he was stepping down amidst calls for the supermarket giant to address its role in the cost-of-living crisis.

Feb 21, 2024, updated Feb 21, 2024
Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci . (File image)

Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci . (File image)

The announcement of Mr Banducci’s departure comes just days after he walked out of an interview ABC’s Four Corners while being questioned about price gouging and a lack of competition in the industry.

It also comes at a time when both Woolworths and Coles have been under political pressure about pricing amid the cost of living crisis as well as its decision to stop selling Australia Day themed items.

Amanda Bardwell, the managing director of the supermarket group’s ecommerce arm, will become its 13th CEO when Mr Banducci retires on September 1.

Chairman Scott Perkins said the timing of Mr Banducci’s departure was not influenced at all by recent controversies, praising him as one of the company’s “finest leaders” in his 13 year career there.

“I can be absolutely emphatic on that point,” Mr Perkins said.

Mr Banducci said the board actually offered to delay announcing his retirement after the controversies emerged.

“It did occur to me to delay, but it wouldn’t have been authentic to me.”

Asked about Mr Banducci’s resignation, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he wanted to “talk about things other than personalities”.

“Woolworths are an important company,” he told ABC radio on Wednesday.

“When (customers) get to the checkout, they should get the lowest prices possible and when farmers are getting less for their products … the price at the checkout should reflect that.

“I think people are concerned about competition in the supermarket industry.”

The supermarket chain also announced Wednesday that it suffered a $781 million first-half loss, including a $NZ1.6 billion ($A1.5 billion) writedown of goodwill from its New Zealand supermarkets and $209 change in accounting treatment of its holdings of Endeavour Group, the alcohol retailer it spun off in 2021.

Excluding those items, Woolworths posted a $929 billion net profit after tax for the six months to December 31, up 2.5 per cent from a year ago with sales were up 4.4 per cent to $34.6 billion.

Mr Perkins said that Ms Bardwell was chosen after an intensive international search process supported by external consultants and called her a proven leader, business builder and modern retailer who had taken WooliesX from infancy to a $7 billion market-leading business.

“Amanda is highly respected throughout the organisation and I know, like Brad, will live our purpose and work hard to achieve Woolworths Group’s full potential.”

Ms Perkins will be paid $2.15 million year in fixed compensation, and be eligible for up to $6.9 million a year in short- and long-term incentive payments.

Opposition finance spokeswoman Jane Hume said the resignation was a decision for Mr Banducci and the Woolworths board.

“But what’s most important is the prominence that not just Woolworths but also Coles have experienced in them in the media and the cost-of-living crisis,” she said.

“Each one of those supermarket giants has responded in a different way and certainly Woolworths has had some questions to answer.”

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