x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Al-Futtaim yet to name new chief

The next move for Al Futtaim, one of the UAE¿s largest retail and property companies, was unclear yesterday after its group chief executive resigned after less than a year for family reasons.

DUBAI // Al-Futtaim Group has yet to name a successor to its former chief executive Robert Willett, who has stepped down from the helm of one the UAE's largest retail and property groups.

Mr Willett, the former chief executive of the electronics retailer Best Buy International, was appointed to head Al-Futtaim, based in Dubai, last summer, making him one of the few external executives tasked with running a family-owned business in the Middle East. His departure, for "family reasons", emerged on Tuesday.

Al-Futtaim, whose brands include Marks & Spencer and Toyota, confirmed Mr Willett's resignation, but did not provide details of a succession.

"Mr Willett has resigned from the company for family reasons, and we have no further comment," said an Al-Futtaim spokesman.

Lisa Byfield-Green, a retail analyst with Planet Retail in London, said Mr Willett's resignation was "a loss for the company".

"Robert Willett had a formidable track record for laying down an international growth strategy at Best Buy, taking them into markets including China, Turkey and the UK," she said. "Willett had only been in the role with Al-Futtaim since [last summer], so has not yet had much opportunity to make an impact.

"But his appointment was significant in that it was unusual to have a non-family member running operations in the region. It will be interesting to see how the company chooses to replace him," she said.