Former DJs CEO defends his time at the helm

By Claire Reilly

The former and current CEOs of retail giant David Jones are locked in a war of words over the company’s recent performance and the reasons for the department store’s dwindling sales figures.

Speaking to the Australian Financial Review, former David Jones chief executive Mark McInnes said that the man running the company today needed to take responsibility for the DJs value dive.

“I gave 15 years to the company and it was a large part of my career – as a shareholder I’ve lost 30 per cent of my investment since Paul became CEO,” said McInnes.

“As an investor in the company and a current shareholder I think they have to take accountability for the things going on inside the company and not just look to the external market or previous management.”

McInnes left David Jones in June 2010, amidst allegations of sexual harassment, to which he admitted to behaving “in a manner unbecoming of a chief executive to a female staff member”. Since departing, the company’s stock price has fallen from more than $4.20 down to below $2.90.

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McInnes defended his performance during his seven year tenure as the head of the company, including his decision to axe the company’s online store during a period of financial strife in 2003, before relaunching it in 2009.

“In 2003, David Jones was on its knees, the share price was $1.03, the company had made a $25 million loss, the company had sold their CBD properties and almost breached its bank agreements," he said.

“In 2009, I recognised the explosion on Google and Facebook, I employed the team, I allocated the resources and David Jones was selling Mother’s Day gifts in May 2010. In my time we were growing and investing into that space.

“Whilst I was there from 2003 to 2010, the company delivered seven years of profit and dividend growth and we lived through two downturns and one of those downturns was an all-out crisis, and even in ’08 and ’09, the company still delivered profit and dividend growth and had no aged inventory.

“In May this year they reconfirmed their profit guidance for the winter half and sales and profit slumped six weeks later. I had nothing to do with that.”

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