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Coles board takes shape ahead of demerger

Wesfarmers today confirmed it had made good progress with preparations for a demerger of its Coles division.

It also announced a number of proposed non-executive director appointments to the board of Coles.

The Coles demerger is expected to be completed in November 2018, subject to shareholder and other approvals. The group said it will retain a minority ownership interest of 15 per cent in Coles, after earlier flagging it would keep up to 20 per cent. It will also retain its existing ownership of 50 per cent of flybuys.

James Graham AM will be appointed chair if the demerger proceeds. David Cheesewright, Jacqueline Chow and Richard Freudenstein have also been proposed as non-executive directors.

These appointments will bring extensive global executive and board experience to Coles, including in international retailing, technology and communications, data and analytics, and supply-chain management and relationships in the FMCG sector.

Wesfarmers Chair Michael Chaney says Mr Graham has extensive commercial, capital-markets and governance experience, including as a former Chair of Rabobank Australia and Darling Harbour Authority, and a strong understanding of the Coles business through his Wesfarmers directorship.

In his corporate advisory career, Mr Graham has worked with the boards of many companies across a range of sectors on all aspects of the development and positioning of large corporate businesses.

“James’ experience and integrity, coupled with his affinity for the Coles business, and respect and understanding of the brand and its history, positions him ideally to help guide its future strategic direction and ongoing focus on the creation of value for Coles shareholders,” Mr Chaney said. “He has been an outstanding director of Wesfarmers and will be a passionate and committed chair of Coles.

“David Cheesewright’s career includes more than 25 years in international retailing and manufacturing, including 19 years with Walmart, where he ultimately held the position of president and CEO of Walmart International.

“Jacqueline Chow has extensive FMCG and marketing experience, with a particular focus on data and analytics.

“Richard Freudenstein will bring deep experience in the global media and digital environment, including disruptive strategies in mature and start-up businesses.”

Mr Chaney says further appointments will be announced in due course, with the full Coles board expected to comprise the chair, managing director and six non-executive directors, including the Wesfarmers nominee.

As previously announced, Steven Cain has been appointed the next managing director of Coles, to succeed John Durkan, and will join in mid-September 2018.

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