Health reasons see Asda’s talisman step down from role

THE charismatic marketing guru who helped sell Asda to a generation of shoppers is leaving the Walmart-owned company after a 20-year career.

Rick Bendel, described in a 2007 profile as a “flinty chain smoker”, decided to leave for health reasons, according to the supermarket giant.

He started working on Asda’s advertising account in 1991 while working at agency Publicis, but went in-house in 2006 as group marketing director.

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Last year, he took on a broader project-based role for US parent Walmart.

Andy Clarke, president and chief executive, said: “Last week, Rick told me about his decision to leave Walmart.

“I first worked with him in 1992 and have come to regard him as a great colleague and friend.

“His contribution to our business is immense but who couldn’t respect his decision to put his health first. We wish him well.”

Marketing entrepreneur Catherine Shuttleworth, who worked alongside Mr Bendel at Publicis and then Asda, described him as a “real one-off”.

“His contribution to Asda is simply immense,” said the founder of Savvy Marketing.

“He was there with Archie Norman and Allan Leighton at the start and helped them deliver one of retail’s great turnarounds.

“He is charismatic and a great leader, working with him was always challenging but great fun.

“He leaves behind a strong legacy of clear marketing, well delivered and will be difficult to follow.”

In a note to staff last year, Mr Clarke said few people in the history of the business have loved and understood Asda as well as Mr Bendel.

Mr Bendel told the Yorkshire Post in 2008 that retailers had an opportunity to “help rebuild broken Britain”.