Booktopia board asks founder to exit executive team

Booktopia board asks founder to exit executive team

Booktopia founder Tony Nash.

When online bookseller Booktopia (ASX: BKG) announced the resignation of founder and major shareholder Tony Nash as CEO in May, a key preface was that he would stick around as an executive focused "exclusively on growth".

Since then the Sydney-based company's fortunes have gone from bad to worse, with BKG shares falling almost in half from already eroded levels as pressures continue to mount in the e-commerce sector.

Longstanding executive director Wayne Baskin departed in June to focus on his own trading app Superhero, while Regal Funds Management (ASX: RF1) and annuities company Challenger (ASX: CGF) ceased to be a substantial holders as shares were on the cusp of hitting all-time lows.

Meanwhile the company was in the midst of an internal review to find what a turnaround might require, assessing the overall strategy, efficiency and cost structure at the group, which disrupted the Australian book retail sector before Amazon set up shop here, snapping up well-known brands such as Bookworld, Angus & Robertson, and the University Co-Operative Bookshop.

The findings of the review ultimately led the board to give Nash notice to step down as CEO effective from close of business yesterday.

"As part of this process, the board has determined that retaining Tony Nash as the chief growth officer, whilst at the same time appointing a new CEO was not in the best interests of the business going forward," the company stated in a release to the ASX this morning.

"Accordingly, the board has given Tony notice to step away from executive management of the Company in order to enable a new CEO to enter with a fresh start on well laid foundations.

"It is intended that Tony will remain as a director and he remains a significant shareholder."

Chairman Chris Beare praised Nash's single-minded focus in building Booktopia from nothing to the $240 million turnover company that it is today.

He said this was an accomplishment rarely seen in Australian business, and wished the founder well for the future. 

Under the terms of his contract, Nash will be available to assist the company but will serve out his six-month notice period out of the office. At the end of that period Tony will receive a payment of $375,000 as part of a bonus he would have otherwise received in relation to FY21.

Current chief financial officer Geoff Stalley has been appointed interim CEO until a new CEO is selected via the search process currently underway.

Late at night following the announcement, Nash posted on his LinkedIn that he chose to be "better rather than bitter".

"R U OK? Today has turned out to be my RUOK? day," he wrote.

"Today, I got terminated by the Booktopia Board. FYI this is the same company that I co-founded 18 years ago.

"I am now on gardening leave for 6 months. After running my own companies and paying myself a salary for 26 years I am now on a forced break. That's a bit freaky for an obsessive entrepreneur."

He thanked everyone from far and wide for their support to check if he was OK, and responded that he was feeling "pretty awesome, relaxed and excited about the future".

"Booktopia is a $240m revenue company employing 300 people. Started from a $10 per day budget 18 years ago. A lady from Amazon USA told me at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2019. "Yeah, we've heard of you. You're the Amazon of Australia.""

 

 

 

 

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