Vicinity Centres promotes Westfield veteran Peter Huddle to permanent CEO role

Vicinity Centres promotes Westfield veteran Peter Huddle to permanent CEO role

Vicinity Centres interim CEO Peter Huddle will permanently take on the role as top boss from 1 February.

Yet another ASX-listed company has upgraded a temporary leadership fill-in to a permanent fixture as Vicinity Centres (ASX: VCX) promotes interim CEO Peter Huddle to the role permanently starting 1 February.

Westfield veteran Huddle joined the shopping centre giant in 2019 as chief operating officer (COO) - a position he occupied until securing the interim CEO job following the shock departure of Grant Kelley three months ago.

The news comes within two weeks of gas company AGL (ASX: AGL) promoting interim CEO Damien Nicks to the role permanently, while in December Healius (ASX: HLS) looked internally to line up COO Maxine Jaquet for the top job when the healthcare group's current CEO steps down in March.

Huddle had a long career with Westfield, starting as a centre manager in Sydney in 2000 before working his way up to more senior responsibilities within the organisation, including in Brazil and the United States.

After Unibail-Rodamco acquired all Westfield centres outside Australia in late 2017, he became COO for the US operations of the renamed Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield.

The executive will receive a fixed annual remuneration of $1.5 million for the new role plus incentives that could take his total pay packet up to $5.7 million.

His appointment comes after Vicinity reported a $1.2 billion FY22 profit, generated from a boom in shoppers returning to the group’s Australian properties.

“I am honoured to be appointed CEO of Vicinity, given the critical role the company plays in Australia’s evolving retail sector and the calibre of the team I am now leading,” Huddle said.

“I believe Vicinity has the right strategy in place to deliver long-term growth and, under my stewardship, we will have an even greater emphasis on driving a performance culture that is focused on property excellence, customer centricity, and disciplined capital management.

“I am looking forward to helping shape Vicinity’s future as a high performing, property-led sector leader and ultimately, delivering shared value for our customers, retailers, strategic partners, investors and importantly, the Vicinity team.”

Founded in 2015, Melbourne-based Vicinity Centres manages a portfolio of 60 retail centres across Australia and is also looking to bring a $2.9 billion development pipeline of retail and mixed-use projects to fruition between FY23 and FY27. 

Vicinity's development plans include Chadstone, Box Hill Central and Victoria Gardens in Victoria, Chatswood Chase Sydney and Bankstown Central in NSW and Buranda Village in Queensland.

The company says Huddle was instrumental in leading Vicinity’s operational response throughout the pandemic and helped ensure it was well-positioned to recover and deliver its long-term growth priorities.

“Peter’s appointment reflects his leadership skills, deep commercial experience, and exemplary track record at Vicinity, and together with the board, I am delighted the new CEO comes from within the company,” Vicinity chairman Trevor Gerber said.

“In his role as CEO, I am confident that Peter will bring new ideas and fresh thinking to Vicinity, that will further build on existing growth initiatives and at the same time, maintain the company’s disciplined approach to deployment of capital and preservation of our strong balance sheet and credit ratings.”

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