Wesfarmers chairman Bob Every said the board holds John Durkan, who is set to take control at Coles in July, in high regard.
“We think he’s an outstanding executive with a good track record,” Every said.
“In the retail area there is always very vigorous negotiations between retailers and suppliers.”
The competition watchdog is suing Coles to stop it from extracting around $16 million a year from small suppliers in payments it says are unconscionable and unfair.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has launched legal action in the Federal Court, accusing Coles of abusing its size and power to pressure 200 small suppliers into making the payments as part of an orchestrated effort to improve the company’s bottom line.
Coles extracted rebates from suppliers in recognition of benefits it claimed they had received from changes to the supermarket’s supply chain, the ACCC claims.
Court documents allegedly paint Durkan, who is currently COO at Coles and has been with the company for six years, as a key player in the alleged misconduct.