Paul Zahra, the man who rebuilt David Jones’ reputation and re-energised the department store following Mark McInnes’ inglorious exit, has announced his impending resignation as CEO from the publicly listed company. Zahra will remain in charge until the succession plan finds a replacement.
“Paul will leave David Jones in a solid financial position and I thank him for his contribution as CEO,” said chairman Peter Mason. “I look forward to working with Paul to ensure a smooth transition of his role to his successor.”
It is ironic that Zahra will stay on while David Jones finds and then beds in a replacement as Zahra himself was thrust into the role after his predecessor, Mark McInnes, was forced to resign in disgrace following lurid allegations of harassment from a colleague.
At the same that Zahra was dealing with this David Jones public relations crisis, he was also faced with significant business challenges, such as the strength of the Australian dollar affecting margins, overseas and online retailers, the GST threshold providing an unfair playing field and an identity crisis among the two major department stores.
When Zahra took over as CEO, David Jones was at the bottom of a share price decline, which saw the company trading at $4.45. After a solid first three months in charge, when the price rose as high as $5.25, the share price has been subject to continual declines, and closed trading today at $2.85.
While suppliers praised Zahra as the right man for the job, one said it was a terrible time for him to take over and that he was performing well considering the circumstances.
His most noticeable achievements concerning the consumer electronics industry was partnering with Dick Smith to furnish David Jones’ electrical department. This meant David Jones could get the highly competitive, low margin electronics category off its books while still retaining a presence in its stores.
Another important contribution from Zahra was the development and implementation of David Jones’ omnichannel strategy, which included the relaunch late last year of a highly omptimised and unique magazine-style website.
“David Jones is an amazing company and a brand I have always been proud to be part of,” Zahra said. “I am sincerely grateful for the opportunities I have had and believe that I have made a valuable contribution.
“Whilst much has been achieved and the company is well placed for the future, I believe it’s time for a change for me personally.”