Wesfarmers, one of the suitors for Coles Group, today (30 April) confirmed the involvement of Archie Norman in the consortium’s A$19.7bn (US$16bn) bid to acquire Australia’s number two retailer. Norman was the executive who led Asda’s transformation in the UK during the 1990s.
Wesfarmers, which heads one of two consortiums that have officially tabled bids for Coles, said that Norman had recently been in Australia for discussions.
“While we have yet to formalise and finalise the precise nature of his ongoing involvement, I envisage Archie will have a very senior advisory role by being actively engaged in the entity we propose to set up to own and manage the Coles supermarkets, liquor, petrol and general merchandising businesses,” Richard Goyder, Wesfarmers MD, said.
Highlighting Norman’s success in turning around the Asda business, Goyder expressed his belief that Norman would be able to work his magic with the struggling Coles retail operations.
“Archie Norman is superbly qualified to be part of this process. He took Asda from a position of impending bankruptcy in late 1991 to a point just under five years later where sales had increased by more than a third, customer visits were up almost 50% and the company was the fastest growing grocery retailer in the United Kingdom for 44 consecutive months.
“His interest in being part of our team will both significantly enhance its quality and be noted by others who may be interested in joining,” Goyder concluded.
Goyder added that another former Asda and more recently Coles senior executive, Steven Cain, was also closely involved in the consortium’s proposals through his association with Pacific Equity Partners.
Wesfarmers, whose businesses include hardware stores, insurance and coal mines, is battling a private equity consortium led by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts to attain control of Coles. Woolworth’s, Australia’s largest retailer, has also signalled its interest in taking on some of Coles’ businesses.
If its bid is successful, Wesfarmers would take control of 50% of Coles’ core businesses, with the remainder held by its consortium partners, private equity firms PEP and Permira and Macquarie Bank.