JD Sports activities’s alternative of CEO indicators a transparent break with the current previous
If the board of JD Sports activities needed its alternative of chief govt to sign a definitive break with the current previous, then Régis Schultz seems an excellent alternative.
The Frenchman has run various retail operations in a number of international locations and contrasts starkly with Peter Cowgill, the blunt Lancastrian who devoted most of his profession to turning JD from a comparatively small UK enterprise right into a retail powerhouse.
“Peter did a tremendous job,” stated Andrew Higginson, the previous Wm Morrison chair who was appointed to the same role at JD in July. “His legacy is that the enterprise is trading very strongly. However it’s missing governance infrastructure and must modernise”.
“The problem is to make the enterprise extra skilled with out smothering the entrepreneurial aptitude that has served us so properly,” he added.
Disagreements over governance and the timetable for splitting the manager chair position right into a extra typical chair-chief govt construction led to Cowgill being ousted in a boardroom coup in Could.
The appointment of Schultz, who will begin in September and plans to relocate to the Manchester space the place JD relies, completes a fast overhaul of the highest group.
“It’s a superb and constructive appointment for JD,” stated Sir Ian Cheshire, who labored with Schultz at Anglo-French DIY conglomerate Kingfisher within the early 2000s. “He comes with a really sharp mind and a protracted monitor report.”
One other one who labored alongside him at Kingfisher stated he went about issues with extra urgency than different senior executives who had been extra prone to deliberate at size about large choices.
“It was fairly frequent for them to spend time chewing the fats, going via all of the permutations, getting everybody onside,” the individual stated. “Régis was nearer to the Anglo-Saxon strategy, he was much more matter-of-fact”.
Schultz was born within the Alsace area on the French-German border. His earliest retail expertise was working in his mom’s store in Colmar, however the nice ardour of his youth was not style however tennis; at one level he was among the many high 20 newbie gamers in France.
That introduced a sports activities scholarship within the US, although not knowledgeable profession — in contrast to JD non-executive Bert Hoyt, who performed on the ATP tour within the late Seventies and early Nineteen Eighties.
His first senior position after an MBA on the elite enterprise college of Paris Dauphine college was at drinks conglomerate Pernod-Ricard, but it surely was throughout an eight-year spell in numerous roles at Kingfisher that he got here to better prominence.
He returned to France in 2008 however was again within the UK in 2013 as chief govt of Darty, an electricals enterprise that was listed in London regardless of making most of its gross sales in France. His three years there are his solely expertise of working a listed firm, and ended with its takeover by French retailer Fnac.
“He got here into the corporate when it wasn’t in nice form,” stated one one who labored with him on the time and described him as “demanding and fairly direct” however efficient.
“He tried to carry a way more entrepreneurial spirit into Darty”, the individual added, together with higher integration of bodily and digital operations, which may also be excessive on the precedence checklist at JD.
Though JD’s digital gross sales rose sharply through the pandemic, in frequent with many different retailers, its ecommerce providing just isn’t thought to be being as much as the requirements of online-only friends or main “bricks and clicks” operators equivalent to Subsequent.
One of many key challenges Schultz will face at JD is adapting to a company tradition formed by the well-known workaholic Cowgill, who a number of folks stated had greater than 20 direct reviews.
“That may have been a difficult situation for whoever took the job,” stated one peer of Schultz from Kingfisher days.
However Higginson stated Schultz was “low ego” and appeared to have the private abilities and emotional intelligence to maintain the corporate’s “rain makers” — a lot of whom he has already met — motivated and onside.
Schultz has in depth expertise working for personal capital. He was chief govt of French furnishings retailer BUT when it was owned by OpCapita and Goldman Sachs and ran upmarket grocery chain Monoprix for French-Algerian tycoon Jean-Charles Naouri.
He involves JD after three years at Abdulla Al-Futtaim’s eponymous conglomerate in Dubai, which holds franchise rights for manufacturers equivalent to Ikea and Marks and Spencer throughout the Center East and elements of Asia.
That will assist him mend fences with JD’s majority shareholder Pentland. The group, managed by the billionaire Rubin household, backed Cowgill nearly to the top.
Pentland stated it welcomed his appointment “and the in depth world expertise he brings”, including that alongside Andy Higginson it “places the required management and governance in place to assist take JD into its subsequent chapter”.