Premier Investments CEO quits as retail group explores a potential demerger

Premier Investments CEO quits as retail group explores a potential demerger

(L-R) Premier Investments chairman Solomon Lew and former CEO Richard Murray

Premier Investments (ASX: PMV) CEO Richard Murray has quit less than two years into the role ahead of a shake-up of the retail group that includes a proposed demerger.

The company, owner of the Peter Alexander, Just Jeans, Portmans and Smiggle chains, has announced that Murray’s resignation is effective immediately.

The former JB Hi-Fi (ASX: JBH) CEO, who took on the top job at Premier Investments in October 2021, has given no reason for his departure.

Premier chairman Solomon Lew would only reveal that the board ‘accepts and understands Richard’s decision to step down’.

The company’s long-time CFO John Bryce has stepped in as interim CEO.

“At this time, it is business as usual,” Lew says.

“The Premier board is focused on moving forward with its formal review as announced today, under the strong leadership of Mr Bryce and the senior management team, whilst continuing to focus on the first-rate retail execution that Premier is known for.”

Murray’s resignation was accompanied by a separate announcement from Premier Investments that it is undertaking a formal review that could see the company split into two or more entities to leverage off the growth of the Peter Alexander and Smiggle operations.

“The decision to undertake the review recognises the increased scale of Premier Retail’s various businesses, and the substantial opportunities for each of them,” the company says.

Premier notes that Peter Alexander’s sales have more than doubled over the past five years and that significant growth opportunities have been identified for the brand in new and larger formats, as well as potential offshore expansion.

Smiggle already has a significant global profile and footprint through about 300 stores in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

“In addition, Smiggle services 350 wholesale doors year-round, growing to up to 800 doors during the peak ‘back-to-school’ period,” the company says. “Smiggle has expansion planned in existing markets and is also exploring new geographies.”

The company’s Apparel Brands division, which includes Portmans, Just Jeans, Jay Jays, Jacqui E and Dotti, is also exploring new store formats, fit-outs and online strategies.

“Premier seeks to ensure that each of its brands is best positioned to take advantage of those opportunities in the interests of shareholders,” the company says.

“The review will consider a range of options, and will include a review of Premier’s corporate, operating and capital structure, including dividend policies and a separation of the group into two or more distinct entities by way of demerger.”

Premier notes that the review, which is being advised by UBS and Arnold Bloch Leibler, will not necessarily result in any changes to the company.

However, investors are banking on a demerger occurring. The company’s shares were up more than 11 per cent, or $2.50, to $24.25 at 11.32am AEST.

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