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Analysing Edcon’s Bernie Brookes move

BernieBrookesEdcon claims to be Southern Africa’s largest non-food retailer and while they are operating in a few surrounding third world countries such as Zimbabwe and Ghana, the bulk of their operations are in South Africa.

Edgars is by far their largest brand, with others also in the mix, including Jet, a discount variety of Edgars.

The CEO, Jurgen Schreiber, has a contract until April 1, 2016. He will be on gardening leave from August 15, next week. His remuneration is about ZAR20 million per annum. Sounds quite grand but in real money this translates to just over AU$2 million – about the same as the ex-CEO of Myer, Bernie Brookes.

To say that Edcon is “ailing” would be a kindness. As a result of Schreiber being sidelined, Edcon began a hunt for a successor.

It’s been reported by various sources that Brookes was “snapped up” by Edcon. But one only has to look back at Brookes’ tenure at the helm of Myer to question any notion of his “snapping up” by Edcon.

Announcing Brookes’ departure back in March, Myer Chairman, Paul McClintock, stated: “It has become clear that to thrive in a modern retail environment, Myer must adapt more quickly and be closer to its customers. The board and management team have agreed that the transformation work has reached a pivotal point and it is appropriate for a new CEO to be given the opportunity to own, lead and drive the transformation program.”

And in recent weeks we have seen the medicine that that new CEO, Richard Umbers, has administered in double quick time – the despatch of 100 tired brands, for starters. Questions have been posed about whether or not Umbers can clean up Myer’s mess. And it’s a fair argument that Umbers had a big job on his hands from day one at Myer, following Brookes’ departure.

Perhaps someone out there can explain to me what this all means:

  • An ailing South African retailer.
  • A CEO at that retailer being put out to pasture before the knacker’s yard.
  • An Australian CEO being given the freedom to explore other opportunities after creating a “mess”.
  • The ailing South African retailer hires the Australian CEO.

Edcon was acquired by Bain Capital in 2007 and delisted from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Bain reportedly paid about US$3.5 billion. Where are they now?

Stuart Bennie is a retail consultant at Impact Retailing and can be contacted at or 0414 631 702.

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