Myer chairman Garry Hounsell has stepped down from the board of Myer just hours before the department store’s AGM is scheduled to begin.
The only director up for re-election, Housnell took the action after it became clear Myer’s two largest shareholders, Premier Investments and Wilson Asset Management, would not support his bid to return as chairman.
Housnell said in a letter to shareholders that he didn’t want his ongoing tenure at the business to serve as a distraction from the hard work of the Myer executive team.
“In my three years as chairman, we have pursued a clear strategy that has strengthened the Myer business, allowing it to come through the severe disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns to be well positioned as we head into the crucial end-of-year trading period,” Hounsell said.
“Throughout my tenure, we have been resolutely focused on delivering for customers and improving the performance of the business – and we have been determined not to allow anything to distract us from that mission.”
Until a replacement chairman is found, JoAnne Stephenson will fill Housnell’s role as acting chairman.
“It’s essential that John King and Myer’s management team are able to execute the strategy during the all-important peak trading period, between Black Friday and January’s Stocktake Sale, without further disruption and it is hoped that my appointment as acting chairman will enable this to occur,” said Stephenson.
Premier Investments said Hounsell’s resignation was the green shoot shareholders have been waiting for, and that it signals to the rest of the board that “their time is up”.
“For the sake of all of Myer’s dedicated employees, its many hard working suppliers, its loyal but frustrated customers, and of course its long-suffering shareholders, the company needs to be restored to health by installing a new, independent Board,” the business said in a statement.
“In Premier’s view, a global search for a new Chairman is a waste of shareholders’ time and money.”
The business said it will continue to seek an independent board, with an independent chairman, with it’s own representation in line with its holding in Myer.