In a tight-lipped scenario that has developed over the past few days, Business Report has exclusively established that Hugues Witvoet, the chief executive of Edgars Department Stores, has suddenly resigned from the Edcon Group.
Edgars Department Stores is Edcon’s flagship unit, operating store banners such as Red Square, Edgars and Boardmans. The division will now be under the control of group chief executive Jurgen Schreiber.
Edcon is owned by US-based private equity firm Bain Capital after it bought the retailer in 2007. The company owns 10 retail brands.
In a terse response to queries, Edcon said it had reached a mutual agreement to part ways with Hugues Witvoet, effective May 9, 2012. Witvoet was appointed chief executive of the Edgars Department Store division in August 2008.
“Jurgen Schreiber, the CEO, will assume responsibility for the Edgars Division in addition to his other responsibilities,” it read.
Edcon would not comment on the issue saying it was “a confidential matter between themselves and Hugues Witvoet”.
However, Syd Vianello, a retail analyst at Nedbank Capital, said that Schreiber, who was appointed in April last year, probably did not see eye to eye with Witvoet on strategic matters.
“It is possible that Witvoet and Schreiber don’t see eye to eye and that Mr Schreiber has a different view on the direction of the Edgars division. I think Shcreiber may have a different view on the way forward. What is worrying is that at the same time that Witvoet is leaving, the group’s financial director is leaving to join Sappi,” he explained.
Vianello said it was evident from the store locations that the Edgars chain has been moving towards an upmarket direction, and that Schreiber disagreed with that.
“With Witvoet going, there will be a change in direction with Schreiber taking control of the Edgars brand which makes the most profit.”
Sources close to the company, speaking on condition of anonymity since they are not authorised to speak on behalf of the company, said Witvoet was pushed out of the company for “non performance” and not reaching targets set by the Edcon group.
Efforts to get comment from Witvoet were not successful.
His retail experience includes stints with AS Watson, LVMH and Carrefour. Witvoet has also worked for McKinsey & Co and is a graduate of Essec Business School.