McInnes to head Just Group

Disgraced former David Jones CEO Mark McInnes has been appointed to head Premiere Investments’ retail operations – including Just Group.

Solomon Lew’s Premier Investments said McInnes has been appointed as the company faced “extremely challenging” conditions.

A poor performance from Just Group had reduced Premier’s net profit in the six months to January 29 to $39.4 million – down 7.1 per cent on the comparable period. Revenue was down 1.9 per cent to $474.78 million.

In what could be interpreted as a dig at Just Group chief Jason Murray, Premier said in a statement: “Beyond the 2011 financial year, Premier remains confident that its retail businesses can produce strong earnings for shareholders under the new leadership of McInnes.”

Lew said he was looking forward to working with McInnes to improve Just Group’s performance and to expand Premier’s retail assets.

“Mark is one of Australia’s most successful retailers and was responsible for transforming David Jones and creating substantial shareholder value,” Lew said.

McInnes resigned from David Jones in June last year after admitting to behaving inappropriately towards a female employee of the company, sparking a lengthy legal dispute which resulted in a confidential payout to the employee.

Despite the criticism of Just Group’s performance, Premier said while Just Group’s sales were flat at $458.4 million, the gross margin improved by 260 basis points to 62.0 per cent despite heavy discounting in the market.

And the company blamed natural disasters, consumer sentiment, adverse climate and a consumer confidence dented by the Libyan crisis for challenging trading conditions in the apparel sector.

Which makes one wonder why Murray appears to have been portrayed as a scapegoat – and how a new CEO with such a polarising track record will do better.


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