Wal-Mart’s Massmart CEO Grant Pattison Resigns After 7 Years

Grant Pattison resigned as chief executive officer of South African retailer Massmart Holdings Ltd. after seven years, having overseen the sale of a majority stake in the company to U.S.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Pattison, 43, will be replaced from June 1 by Massmart Chief Operating Officer Guy Hayward, the Johannesburg-based company said in a statement today. Pattison will stay at the company as a non-executive director until the end of 2014.

“I’ll be looking for a leadership opportunity in a different industry where I am based in Johannesburg,” Pattison said in a phone interview. “I subscribe to the idea of a term for a CEO and then making space for someone with fresh vision.” He will “start thinking about what to do next in the second half of the year.”

Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer, bought a 52 percent stake in Massmart in June 2011 for 16.5 billion rand ($1.58 billion) as it looked to expand in emerging markets. Massmart, which had 376 stores in 12 sub-Saharan Africa countries as of February, offered Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart a foothold in the fast-growing continent.

“Pattison’s move with Wal-Mart was a bold, but correct move that will be very favorable for Massmart in the longer-term,” Wayne McCurrie, a fund manager at Momentum Asset Management in Johannesburg, said by phone. “The tough retail environment in South Africa means we’ve not seen major benefits from that tie-up yet, and may not for another two years or so.”

Struggling Retailers

Massmart sales climbed 9.5 percent for the eight weeks through Feb. 23, the company said in a statement that month. That compared with 9.8 percent growth in fiscal 2013. Most South African retailers have been struggling over the past year as high unemployment and inflation hurt consumer spending.

Hayward, 48, worked at South African companies Malbak and CNA Gallo and at Goldman Sachs in London after qualifying as a chartered accountant. He joined Massmart in 2000, became chief financial officer a year later and in 2012 took responsibility for Massmart’s four operating divisions.

Massmart shares traded 2.6 percent lower at 134.44 rand at the close in Johannesburg, paring the year’s gain to 3.4 percent. The FTSE/JSE Africa General Retailers Index was down 1.1 percent.

Chairman Mark Lamberti also resigned after being named as chief executive officer of car dealer Imperial Holdings Ltd. in February. He will be succeeded by Kuseni Dlamini, former head of Anglo American Plc’s South Africa unit.

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