Amazon has hired former Asda director Rob McWilliam as its UK finance director as the etail giant’s balance sheet remains under the microscope.
The highly rated McWilliam, who was most recently strategy director at Asda parent Walmart, joins the Slough-based etailer early next month. McWilliam will be rejoining his former Asda colleague Doug Gurr, who held the position of executive development director at the grocer. Gurr is currently Amazon’s vice-president for European hardlines.
McWilliam spent 15 years with Asda in a variety of roles including business change director. He left the Leeds-based grocer last summer.
Amazon’s finances have been at the heart of the debate over giant corporations’ alleged tax avoidance. Its director of public policy Andrew Cecil was grilled by Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, over Amazon’s tax affairs in November.
Hodge labelled Cecil “totally evasive” before ordering the etailer to become more transparent.
Observers will hope McWilliam, who regularly addressed investors and the media while at Asda, will bring further transparency to Amazon’s corporate affairs in the UK.
Independent retail analyst Nick Bubb said McWilliam is a “young, personable talent” and could improve Amazon’s public relations. He said: “It is to Rob’s advantage that he has worked at the UK subsidiary of a huge American company and that he knows how to handle the politics of that situation.”
McWilliam replaced former Asda chief operating officer Judith McKenna in September 2011 as acting finance director until February 2012. He headed up a 260-strong finance team at the Leeds-based grocer presiding over the department during a strong Christmas 2011 trading period.
When former John Lewis shared services director Richard Mayfield became chief financial officer last summer, McWilliam moved to a wider role at Walmart as strategy director, supporting president and chief executive officer for Walmart EMEA David Cheesewright and business development projects in Asda in the UK.
In written evidence submitted to a select committee on corporation tax, it emerged Amazon generated £3.35bn in UK sales in 2011, recording a pre-tax profit of £74m. The figures revealed that 45% of Amazon’s European income comes from the UK.