Matalan drafts in supermarket execs as bruised retailer looks to rebuild reputation
Matalan has drafted in a pair of former Lidl and Co-op executives as the bruised value retailer looks to rebuild its performance following the exit of founder John Hargreaves earlier this year.
Jo Whitfeild, the former chief of the Co-op’s food division, will take the lead as Matalan’s chief executive. She will replace interim chief Nigel Oddy.
The supermarket veteran also spent time at Asda, leading its general merchandise business and serving as vice president for operations, e-com and international at Asda’s fashion arm George.
The Liverpool-headquartered retailer, which was rescued by a debt-for-equity swap with its lenders in January, has also brought in former Lidl chief Karl-Heinz Holland as the company’s new chair.
Holland spent over two decades at the budget grocer before taking on a chairman role at European value retailer Takko Fashion.
“Anyone close to the retail world will know the experience and focus that both Karl-Heinz and Jo will bring to their roles,” Michael Phelps, partner at Tresidor Investment Management, one of the anchor investors in Matalan, said.
“They have a proven track-record of making positive impacts in value retail and are the perfect fit for Matalan as it focuses on this next stage of its growth.”
The onboarding of two very experienced retail figures comes after it was speculated that founder John Hargreaves believed that a refinancing deal which pushed him out of the company would leave Matalan in the “hands of inexperienced owners”.
Earlier this year, a swarm of institutional investors including Invesco, Man GLG and Tresidor Investment Management agreed to close a £257m debt-for-equity swap and also injected up to £100m of new capital into the business.
The move was a source of contention for Hargreaves who made a failed attempt to swoop in and make a 50:50 deal with investors Elliot Advisors.
Matalan employs some 11,000 workers and operates across 230 stores in the UK, including a flagship site on Oxford Street.