New CEO announced for Coles Liquor

New Coles Group CEO Leah Weckert has promoted Michael Courtney to the role of CEO Liquor.

He replaces Darren Blackhurst, who announced in April he was stepping down to return to the United Kingdom to be closer to his parents and children. 

Courtney has led the Coles Express business for more than four years.

“Michael has spent the past six months immersing himself in the e-commerce business and transforming our customer offer,” Weckert said.

“Michael is exceptionally well-placed to lead liquor in delivering the strategy and transformation plans underway. He is committed to building a strong culture and team who are passionate about being local drinks specialists. I’m delighted to welcome Michael to the executive leadership team. He is a fantastic example of building a great career at Coles and this appointment is testament to his ability to seek opportunities to continually adapt and grow.”

Courtney said: “I’m really excited to be taking the role because providing an exceptional drinks experience for customers is key to Coles Group’s strategy.

“Customers are the reason we exist and a really exciting part about the liquor market is that customer trends are continuing to evolve at a rapid pace. If we want to win in this market we have to stay at the forefront of what our customers’ needs are and find a way to best serve them.

“We’ve got three really strong brands in the liquor business being Liquorland, First Choice Liquor Market and Vintage Cellars. They each cater to a variety of customer missions and give us the opportunity to really differentiate in the market.

“Darren in his three years in the business set forward a strategy that has gained really positive momentum and I’m looking forward to building on this and working with the team and our suppliers to be really clear on what our plans are to be the very best drinks retailer in Australia.”

Further changes announced to Weckert’s executive leadership team include the departure of chief executive of emerging businesses George Saoud.

Since joining Coles in May 2020, Saoud has led the delivery of the “Smarter Selling” program – a key pillar of former CEO Steve Cain’s strategy to drive a better performance and higher profits from the business, which resulted in $1 billion cost savings.

“On behalf of the board and executive leadership team, I would like to thank George for his significant contribution to Coles and wish him all the best with his future endeavours,” Weckert said.

Amanda McVay has been appointed as the company its new chief customer officer. She will lead the development and execution of the marketing, brand and customer communication strategies.

She has extensive marketing and customer strategy experience and joins Coles from US grocery chain Meijer, where she was most recently group vice-president, head of marketing, digital, customer strategy and own brand.

Matt Swindells, chief operations and sustainability officer, will assume responsibility for retail manufacturing and the delivery of its billion-dollar automated warehouse project with Ocado.

Chief digital officer Ben Hassing will assume responsibility for financial services, bringing together the supermarket’s customer digital and payments businesses. General manager of financial services Paul Askew will join his leadership team.

“To ensure a smooth handover, George will support the transition of his portfolios until Friday, 30 June.”

The Board of Coles Group Limited appointed Weckert as Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Coles with effect from 1 May 2023, upon the retirement of Steven Cain.

Since 2011, Weckert has held the positions of Chief Executive, Commercial and Express; Chief Financial Officer; People and Culture Director; and, State General Manager, Victorian Supermarkets, as well as being a senior member of the Executive Leadership Team since the demerger of Coles from the Wesfarmers Group in 2018.

The Chairman of Coles James Graham said: “Leah has an outstanding track record of leadership and driving change inside Coles across key operating areas of the business. I am confident that Leah will maintain the focus of Coles in driving our strategy, building trust with all stakeholders and growing long-term shareholder value. Leah has personal and professional qualities, which together with broad business experience uniquely qualify her for the role as our next Chief Executive.”

Weckert said “I am very honoured to be appointed as the next CEO of Coles, which has been such an important part of Australian retailing for more than 100 years, and play a part in its ongoing contribution to the Australian community.

“We have a transformational strategy that, through the hard work of our 130,000 team members, will deliver better experiences for customers and create value for shareholders. I am excited by the many opportunities and look forward to bringing them to fruition over the years ahead.”

“It’s a good case study in how to develop someone’s career,” Cain told the Australian Financial Review. “And it has been deliberate. Since she started she’s had a number of different sponsors over that time, from various CEOs through to me and obviously the board, to make sure that she has experienced the [different] roles.”

Cain said Coles had been active in moving its top managers around to give them experience in different parts of the business.

“It helps build networks but it also helps create understanding in the organisation of the end-to-end service that we have to provide,” Cain explained.

“[Leah is] respected across the business and that’s because she’s worked across the business. Obviously she’s very smart, but she’s very humanistic. She articulates things in a very simple way, which is important in a company like Coles to get things done.

“And the fact that she happens to be a woman, and indeed the first woman to lead Coles, is even better.”

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Categories: Business