If the JD Sports board wanted their choice of CEO to mark a complete break from the recent past, then Régis Schultz seemed an ideal choice.
The Frenchman has run diverse retail operations in several countries and stands in stark contrast to Peter Cowgill, the outspoken Lancastrian who has spent most of his career transforming JD from a relatively small UK business into a retail powerhouse.
“Peter has done an amazing job,” said Andrew Higginson, a former Wm Morrison chairman who was appointed to the same position at JD in July. “His legacy is that the business is Trading very strongly. But it lacks a governing infrastructure and needs to be renewed.”
“The challenge is to make the business more professional without stifling the entrepreneurial talent that has served us so well,” he added.
Disagreements about governance and the timetable for splitting the role of chairman of directors into a more conventional chairman-CEO structure led to Cowgill deposed In a conference room coup in May.
God Schulz’s appointmentAsher will start in September and plans to move to the Manchester area where JD is based, completing a rapid overhaul of the top team.
“It’s a good and positive appointment for JD,” said Sir Ian Cheshire, who worked with Schultz at Anglo-French DIY conglomerate Kingfisher in the early 2000s. “He comes with a very sharp mind and a long record.”
Another person who worked alongside him at Kingfisher said he did things with more urgency than other senior executives, who were more likely to deliberate long over big decisions.
“It was quite common for them to spend time chewing the fat, going through all the permutations, getting them all in,” the person said. “Regis was closer to the Anglo-Saxon approach, he was much more matter-of-fact.”
Schultz was born in Alsace on the French-German border. His earliest retail experience was working in his mother’s shop in Colmar, but the great passion of his youth was not fashion but tennis; At one point he was among the 20 best amateur players in France.
This brought a sports scholarship in the US, though not a professional career – unlike the non-executive JD Brett Hoyt, who played on the ATP tour in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
His first senior role after an MBA at Paris Dauphin University’s elite business school was at drinks conglomerate Perno-Ricard, but during an eight-year stint in various roles at Kingfisher he rose to greater heights.
He returned to France in 2008, but returned to the UK in 2013 as chief executive of Darty, a London-listed electricals business, although most of his sales were in France. His three years there were his only experience of running a listed company, ending with its takeover by the retailer French Fnac.
“He came into the company when it wasn’t in great shape,” said one person who worked with him at the time, describing him as “demanding and quite direct” but effective.
“He’s tried to bring a much more entrepreneurial spirit to Derry,” the person added, including a better mix of physical and digital operations, which will also be a priority at JD.
Although JD’s digital sales have risen sharply during the pandemic, in common with many other retailers, its e-commerce offering is not considered to be up to the standards of online-only peers or leading “brick and click” operators such as Next.
One of the key challenges Schultz will face at JD is adapting to a corporate culture shaped by the noted workaholic Cowgill, who multiple people said has more than 20 direct reports.
“It was a complicated issue for whoever took the job,” said one of Schultz’s peers from the Kingfisher days.
But Higginson said Schultz had a “low ego” and appeared to have the personal skills and emotional intelligence to keep the company’s “rainmakers” – many of whom he had already met – motivated and on board.
Schulz has extensive experience working for private equity. He was CEO of the French furniture retailer but when it was owned by OpCapita and Goldman Sachs and managed The luxury grocery chain Monoprix for the French-Algerian tycoon Jean-Charles Nauri.
He comes to JD after three years at Abdullah Al Futtaim’s eponymous conglomerate in Dubai, which holds franchise rights to brands such as IKEA and Marks and Spencer across the Middle East and parts of Asia.
That may help him mend fences with JD’s majority shareholder Pentland. The group, controlled by the billionaire Rubin family, supported Cogel almost to the end.
Pentland said she welcomes his appointment “and the extensive global experience he brings”, adding that alongside Andy Higginson she is “putting in place the leadership and governance necessary to help take JD into its next chapter”.
JD Sports’s choice of CEO signals a clear break with the recent past Source link JD Sports’s choice of CEO signals a clear break with the recent past