LONDON — After a lengthy search, Boots has finally found a new chief executive officer.
This story first appeared in the May 2, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Richard Baker, 40, chief operating officer at British supermarket chain Asda, will succeed Steve Russell, who, as it was announced, will leave the company at the end of this month.
“We have been looking for the right person to accelerate strategic change at Boots,” said John McGrath, chairman of the High Street chemist chain. “Richard has an outstanding track record in retail and marketing.”
“It is one of the most trusted brands in the country with a great team of people, tremendous customer loyalty and strong positions in growth markets,” said Baker.
But it won’t be an easy ride for the new ceo. Boots has said it was pulling the plug on its Wellbeing services including botox, massages and manicures, and has decided to close its pure beauty stores.
One analyst said this is a hard task for someone relatively young, and that Boots needs its entire strategy reexamined.
However, many think it’s exactly what Boots needs now.
“The company has been in limbo for a while and I think what they need is an aggressive young buck,” said one London retail analyst. “Baker is an exceedingly successful and competent person who has great experience in competition.”
McGrath said Steve Russell, who has been at Boots for 36 years, had been a tremendous support for the company, especially over the last few months: “He leaves the company much changed for the better and the improving trend in recent sales performance is a testament to his hard work.”
Boots also announced the appointment of Sir Nigel Rudd as chairman, effective Sept. 15. Baker also joins on Sept. 15. McGrath will remain chairman and will become acting ceo from the end of this month until September, when Rudd and Baker join. At that time, McGrath will retire.
McGrath added: “I believe that with Sir Nigel Rudd as chairman and Richard Baker as chief executive, we have an excellent combination of skills to lead our strong, new executive team.”