Asda’s Chief Executive Steps Down With Head Of Walmart China Taking Over

Walmart announced this morning that Asda’s Chief Executive Andy Clarke was stepping down with the head of its operations in China taking over the role.

Following months of speculation about his future, the group said that Clarke had decided the timing was right to step aside from his role with the company following a prolonged period of weakening sales. He will remain with the business until the end of July, at which point he will serve as an advisor for the remainder of 2016. He will also retain his current role as Asda’s representative in certain functions, namely as president of the IGD.

Sean Clarke

Whilst only last week it was reported that incoming Chief Operating Officer Roger Burnley was being lined up to take over as CEO of Asda, Walmart said today that Sean Clarke has been appointed to the role from 11 July. He is currently President and Chief Executive Officer of Walmart China but started his retail career in 1996 with Asda where he served as Commercial Finance Director. He then served as Chief Financial Officer in Japan and Germany before moving to Walmart Canada, where he also worked in a CFO role.

Walmart said that Sean Clarke leadership will allow Asda to build upon the momentum of Project Renewal and reposition the business in a “very competitive market place”.

Walmart also confirmed that Burnley will be named deputy CEO and Chief Operating Officer at Asda when he joins the business in October. The group said that he will be a strong support to Sean Clarke having held a variety of senior leadership positions across commercial and operational functions of UK retail businesses. He worked at Asda between 1996 and 2002 and was part of the core team responsible for integrating Asda into Walmart following its acquisition in 1999.

The move means that Dirk Van De Berghe, currently President and Chief Executive Officer, Walmart Canada will take over leadership of the Walmart China business, effective 22 August. In addition, Dirk will also serve as Regional President for our Asia business, including Walmart Japan. Walmart added that it will announce a new leader for Walmart Canada shortly.

The group said this move will allow Scott Price, currently President and Chief Executive Officer – Walmart Asia to focus exclusively on his additional role as Chief Administrative Officer – Walmart International.

David Cheesewright, president and CEO of Walmart International, who last week told reporters at the group’s AGM that he was “very disappointed” with Asda’s trading performance, commented: “Actively managing our global business portfolio is a key element of our international strategy, and we must have the right talent in place to lead our businesses through times of change.

“Sean is one of our most experienced global executives, and through his leadership we will build upon the momentum of Project Renewal to reposition Asda in a very competitive market place. I’m also excited about Roger coming back to Asda, as we view him as a top talent and a future CEO.

“Together with the existing Asda executive team, Sean and Roger will serve as an incredibly powerful team to lead our Asda business. Their complementary skills and combined expertise in the UK retail market and globally brings an unrivaled breadth of retail knowledge to Asda.”

Commenting on his appointment, Sean Clarke said: “Rejoining Asda at such a critical point in the development of the UK retail market is both a challenge and a privilege. After spending the last 15 years in Walmart’s global retail markets, I’m looking forward to returning to the business that got me hooked on grocery retail.”

Burnley added: “Asda is a business I know well, and one I’m excited to rejoin at a critical time in its history. I’ve always admired Asda’s passionate colleagues, relentless focus on the customer and its ability to reposition itself in a crowded marketplace. Being part of the world’s largest retailer also presents a huge personal opportunity to work alongside world-class talent, including Sean. I’m looking forward to getting started.”

NAM Implications:
  • … started his retail career in 1996 with Asda where he served as Commercial Finance Director. He then served as Chief Financial Officer in Japan and Germany before moving to Walmart Canada, where he also worked in a CFO role
  • …any doubts about the importance of financed-based argument to the new CEO
  • …and the rest of the team…