Stefano Pessina has said that Alliance Boots’ 115,000 staff should not be concerned at the appointment of Andy Hornby as group chief executive, despite his association with the HBoS shipwreck.
Boots’ executive chairman said the failure of HBoS should not be held against Hornby indefinitely and was confident that his retail skills would help Boots move ahead with its strategic priorities.
Pessina told Retail Week: “He understands he has made some mistakes and was more than sorry. He has paid for it. You cannot put people in a ghetto because they’ve made a mistake.
“We haven’t hired him for his banking experience. We want his retail and particularly his management experience.”
Hornby’s appointment will allow Pessina to focus on longer-term objectives. Pessina said: “We have to develop the brand outside the UK, develop new product and expand the fantastic product we have, which still has a limited market. We have done an acceptable job but there are so many things to do, so many ideas.”
Boots health and beauty chief executive Alex Gourlay and pharmaceuticals wholesale chief executive Ornella Barra will retain their existing roles, while Pessina will continue to chair the retailer’s board and group executive committee.
Before moving to HBoS, Hornby held retail roles including managing director of Asda’s George clothing business. One former colleague described him as “very bright” but said Hornby would need to avoid becoming “meat in the sandwich” between the hands-on Pessina and the powerful divisional bosses.
Pessina said: “We’re very collegial in our decisions and Andy works in that way.”
Whitehead Mann partner Sally Elliott agreed that Hornby was a good appointment, despite his association with the HBoS disaster.
She said: “You’d be hard-pressed to find someone better. If the company continues to make good ground then, if there’s eventually a float, people will not be looking at what happened at HBoS.”
Last month Alliance Boots reported an 11.3 per cent increase in EBITDA to £1.25bn.