Woolies CEO quits as price gouging claims swirl

Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci will step down within months, but politicians say this will not stop supermarket giants from price gouging during a cost-of-living crisis.

Banducci will resign in September after 13 years working for Woolworths Group, including eight and a half years at the top spot.

The announcement has paved the way for Woolworths’ to appoint its first female CEO, with Amanda Bardwell to take the role.

Woolworths and Coles have faced accusations of price gouging customers, stifling competitors and ripping off suppliers.

Banducci fumbled through a trainwreck interview with the ABC’s Four Corners, struggling to answer questions about the retail giant’s market share.

Perkins insisted the CEO’s departure was not influenced by the controversies and praised him as one of the company’s “finest leaders”.

“I can be absolutely emphatic on that point,” Perkins said.

Asked about Banducci’s resignation, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he wanted to “talk about things other than personalities”.

“When customers get to the check out, they should get the lowest prices possible and when farmers are getting less for their products … the price at the check out should reflect that,” he told ABC radio.

But Nationals leader David Littleproud did not hold back.

“It’s about time,” he told Sky News on Wednesday.

“The behaviour of Brad Banducci in that documentary on Monday night shows that once you tear away the very shallow exterior of these CEOs, underneath it is a very deep-seated and very sinister value of the company that he was leading – that was exploiting farmers and consumers.”

The government has directed the Australians consumer watchdog to launch a probe into prices and competition within the supermarket sector after appointing former Labor minister Craig Emerson to review the effectiveness of the grocery code of conduct.

A Senate committee has also been established to examine supermarket prices.

But Littleproud says the government should go further.

“We should have scaling penalties right up to divestiture powers, where we can actually take away some of their stores within geographical areas, to give more competition and even remove some of the chains that they have,” he said.

Bardwell was chosen after an international search supported by external consultants.

The managing director of Woolworths Group’s e-commerce arm helped take WooliesX from infancy to a $7 billion market-leading business.

“Amanda is highly respected throughout the organisation and I know, like Brad, will live our purpose and work hard to achieve Woolworths Group’s full potential,” Perkins said.

But Greens senator Nick McKim says new leadership will not fix the issues in the food and grocery sector.

“Farmers, workers and shoppers are going to keep getting smashed regardless of who wears the CEO badge,” he said.

“It is price gouging, corporate power and market dominance that are the real problems.”

The supermarket chain announced on Wednesday it suffered a $781 million first-half loss, including a $1.5 billion writedown of goodwill from its New Zealand supermarkets and $209 million change in accounting treatment of its holdings of Endeavour Group, the alcohol retailer it spun off in 2021.

Excluding those items, Woolworths posted a $929 million net profit after tax for the six months to December 31, up 2.5 per cent from a year ago with sales were up 4.4 per cent to $34.6 billion.

Bardwell will be paid $2.15 million a year in fixed compensation and will be eligible for up to $6.9 million a year in short and long-term incentives.


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