Godfreys third chief executive in as many years has resigned after just over four months on the job, capping off a raft of executive changes at the vacuum specialist amid a takeover by co-founder John Johnston.
Jason Gowie, who just two months ago was preparing a broad-based turnaround plan for the struggling business, resigned from his role as chief executive and managing director last Friday and will be replaced by on-again-off-again company veteran John Hardy.
Hardy will join as interim chief as a takeover bid launched by 99-year-old Johnston progresses via vehicle Arcade Finance.
It will be the third time in the captain’s chair for Hardy after a long run as boss from 1983 to 2010 and a shorter stint from mid-2016 to 2017.
Hardy has been a supporter of Arcade’s takeover bid from the outset and is understood to be close with Johnston, who intends to take the business private once his takeover is complete.
Arcade’s 33.5 cent per share offer for the business has been made unconditional and is expected to complete in the coming months, with a host of leaders having already resigned from the business.
Last week company chairman Brendan Fleiter and a host of other directors resigned from the board, with lawyer Nicholas Stretch appointed as the company’s new chair last Thursday.
Stretch said that Hardy has an “unsurpassed understanding” of Godfreys and that his reappointment would inject some confidence back into the business.
During his short tenure, Gowie bungled an attempt to change Godfreys’ marketing strategy with a slate of new TV ads, which led to a disastrous 27 per cent decline in sales in a two week period.
It was in the wake of this incident that Godfreys board recommended shareholders accept Arcade’s bid, which was soon increased from 32 cents per share to put some urgency behind the takeover.
Godfreys also announced last Friday that former Munro Footwear Group chief operating officer David Lee would come on as its new chief financial officer, following the resignation of Andrew Ford from the role last week.
In his second public statement on the bid since launching it last month, Johnstone said last Friday that the raft of appointments had put the right team in place to turnaround the beleaguered business.
“[Hardy] has a deep understanding of the business and has a clear vision of what needs to take place to restore its value,” Johnston said.
“[Lee and Hardy] have worked together at Munro Footwear Group and have a proven track record in turning around large retail businesses.”
The appointment of Hardy signals the start of a broader strategic change for Godfreys under the ownership of Johnston. When Gowie was appointed earlier this year he quickly moved to change a raft of priorities, including moving away from a focus on franchising.
Hardy, however, was a proponent of converting company owned stores to franchise locations when he was boss in 2016/17.