Executive Insights

What you need to know about the new Woolworths CEO, who's from Joburg and runs Levi's in the US

Business Insider SA
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 15:  EVP & President of Am
Roy Bagattini (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Levis),
Getty Images Dave Kotinsky
  • In a month's time, Woolworths will have a new CEO: the 55-year old Roy Bagattini.
  • Bagattini grew up in Johannesburg and worked at SA Breweries before joining the Danish brewer Carlsberg.
  • He currently runs Levi Strauss in the Americas, which represents half of the global clothing group's income - but it's still a much smaller operation than Woolworths.
  • For more stories, go to BusinessInsider.co.za.

After Woolworth’s disastrous Australian adventure, its CEO Ian Moir will be replaced with Roy Enzo Bagattini, an executive at the American clothing group Levi Strauss, next month.

For the past decade, Moir headed Woolworths and he championed the acquisition of the Australian department store David Jones for R21.5bn five years ago. But the group has since lost billions on the deal after sales faltered at the chain.

Read: This eye-popping graph shows Woolworths is drowning in debt – while Clicks and Mr Price owe basically nothing

The 55-year old Bagattini currently runs Levi Strauss in the Americas (including the US), which brings in half of the company’s income, or around $3 billion (R40 billion, at current exchange rates).

Still, his new job will be a large step up: Woolworths turnover amounted to more than R78 billion in the past year.

"It is a great privilege to be given the opportunity to lead this iconic company at this important stage in its history,” Bagattini said in a statement on Monday. “I am excited about the tremendous potential of the Group and am looking forward to working with our talented and passionate people to elevate our brands, build deeper connections with our customers and, in doing so, realise this potential across all our businesses."

Woolworths share price jumped 8% following the news of his appointment.

Here’s what we know about Woolworths’ new CEO:

He hails from Joburg

Bagattini grew up in Johannesburg, and still has family in South Africa, including a step-brother, who owns a tiling company in Cape Town.

He has a BCom from Unisa

According to one report, he also completed business courses at Stanford University and Oxford.

He started his career in beer

In 1991, Bagattini joined SA Breweries in Johannesburg. He would stay with the company for 18 years, and was involved in its expansion into China and India.

In 2009, he moved on to the Danish brewer Carlsberg, where he was responsible for the group’s Asia strategy and was credited with the company’s significant growth in that region.

He currently runs half of Levi Strauss

Bagattini, who is based in San Francisco, joined Levi Strauss & Co (LS&Co) in 2013 to head its Asia , Middle East and Africa region. “ Under his leadership, the region has consistently delivered outsized growth, strengthened its customer relationships and attracted blue-chip talent,” Levi’s says on its website.

In 2016 he was promoted to head the Americas (United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Latin America). He was responsible for leading the company’s largest commercial operations, including a significant network of retail stores.

During his time at Levi’s, the 166-year-old company continued its recovery from being in the doldrums a decade ago.

“Roy has been a vital member of the team that led LS&Co.’s turnaround. He is a respected leader whose insights and perspective helped to shape our winning strategy,” Chip Bergh, president and CEO of Levi Strauss & Co, said in a statementthis week.

“Today, we are set up for continued success. I am grateful for Roy’s contributions to the strong foundation now in place at LS&Co., and I know that he will be a high-impact CEO in his next role,” Bergh added.

In its statement, Woolworths said that Bagattini helped to develop and grow Levi’s e-commerce during his term. The retailer said that he has experience with numerous large scale merger and acquisition projects, and also “spearheaded the turnaround of several international companies and successfully driven the growth and expansion of various businesses, particularly in emerging markets”.

Bagattini may be in for a salary cut

According to Salary.com, Bagattini earned $3.97m in 2018 (R57m at current exchange rates) - which included shares and a bonus.

This is considerably more than Moir earned in the past year (R23 million). But as recently as 2016, Moir received almost R54 million. And over the past five years, Moir earned R191 million - despite Woolworths losing almost 40% of its value on the JSE.

Woolworths' share price. Source: Fin24

He believes in phone calls 

In an interview with a trade publication, Bagattini said that he believe that as business leader needs to be visible, available and accessible.

“That’s much more than merely having an ‘open door policy’. Often small gestures such as a short phone call or a brief note is hugely appreciated by the employee.”

“There is also great value in getting to know your teams well because only then can you truly appreciate the diversity and the unique contribution that each individual can make to drive performance.”

He finds restructuring the hardest part of his job

“Invariably the toughest decisions I have had to make involved the restructuring and reorganisation of businesses in the interest of keeping them viable and healthy in the long term,” Bagattini said in an interview.

“In making these tough calls, I think it’s vital to be mindful of how one goes about doing this as well as the principles one follows because these decisions have a profound impact on people’s lives and livelihoods and affects the entire organisation.” 

Woolworths current CEO will still try to sort out Australian mess

Moir is already based in Australia, and will continue as acting CEO of David Jones. Bagattini will presumably move to Cape Town, where Woolworths’ head-office is located. South Africa represents two-thirds of Woolworths income.

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