Penny Winn steps in as Big W head suddenly departs

Big W managing director Alastair McGeorge resigned suddenly yesterday leaving head of retail services, Penny Winn to take over as managing director until a permanent appointment is made.

McGeorge, 55, only took the role at Big W last June. Woolworths said he resigned for health reasons, however they also advised that there was a complaint from an unnamed employee about McGeorge’s behaviour in the workplace.

“The behaviour was verbal in nature. This complaint has been investigated and finalised and for legal reasons we are unable to make any further comment on this matter,” the company said in a statement.


McGeorge was the former chairman and chief executive of British retailer New Look and replaced long-serving Woolworths executive Julie Coates, who had been running Big W for five years. McGeorge had been consulting to Big W for several months before he was appointed CEO. Previous roles included British fashion and homewares retailers Matalan and Littlewoods.

Big W’s earnings have fallen from $200 million in 2010 to an estimated $130 million in 2015, but George had forecast a return to profit growth in 2016. However, pressure from escalating competition in food and liquor and department stores has taken its toll, with around dozen senior executives being sacked in recent months.

Woolworths chief executive Grant O’Brien resigned in June, less than a month after unveiling a three-year growth strategy that involved cutting 1200 jobs and reinvesting $500 million of cost savings into reducing grocery prices and improving service in supermarkets.

Woolworths has appointed Egon Zehnder to conduct a global search for O’Brien’s replacement.



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