Ex-Asda chief shopping for new challenges

ANDY BOND, the former head of Asda, is set to "go plural" this year with expectations that he will take on a number of new roles after deciding to quit the UK's second biggest grocer after 16 years.

Mr Bond announced in an internal memo to staff that he will leave Asda's US parent company Wal-Mart for good in three months' time once he has bedded down Wal-Mart's acquisition of the South African retail chain Massmart.

He officially stepped down from his role as Asda's part-time chairman on New Year's Day, saying in the memo to colleagues: "Deciding to move on to new challenges after 16 years is never an easy decision, but never more so than at a business like ours."

Colleagues believe Mr Bond will now follow in the footsteps of another former Asda chief executive, Allan Leighton, who coined the phrase "going plural" when he took on a number of new roles.

Last year Mr Bond, who is known as a fitness fanatic and a keen cyclist, became chairman of online bike retailer Wiggle.

Colleagues now expect him to take on a number of other similar roles as well as committing more time to his charitable work.

"After five years running the show he is now keen to embark on a number of projects," said one.

Clive Black, retail analyst at Shore Capital, said he thought that Mr Bond wanted a change of direction when he stepped down as chief executive of Asda last April.

"I sensed he was looking for a change in lifestyle. I wouldn't be surprised if he engaged in a number of prospects," said Mr Black. "I think his charity work, especially linked to raising money through cycling, will continue to play an important role. He has a broad background and a wide range of skill sets. He has delivered for Asda and now I can see him taking on a number of non-executive directorships and also private equity start-ups."

Wiggle is owned by private equity firm Isis and there has been recent speculation that it could change hands this year. Wiggle now sells to over 70 different countries and has around 400,000 active customers.

An established Yorkshire-based headhunter said he thought it less likely that Mr Bond would leave Asda to join another major retailer.

"That would fall into the trap of doing more of the same somewhere else," he said. "I can see him doing a portfolio job or joining a private equity-backed business. People were very sorry when he decided to step down. He was seen as a good balance between the Asda approach and somebody who represented a broader perspective."

Asda does not plan to replace Mr Bond, who took on the role of part-time chairman last year to ensure a smooth handover to Mr Clarke.

Doug McMillon, who runs Wal-Mart's international division, said that Mr Bond "has been, and will continue to be, instrumental in our efforts to acquire a majority interest in Massmart".

He added that Mr Bond is "a brilliant merchant, a strong leader and an effective manager".

Mr Bond said the decision to leave Asda had not been easy.

"Asda is, and will always be, a part of who I am," said Mr Bond. "Of course, you'd expect me to say it's been a pleasure to work here and a real privilege to be CEO – and it surely has."

His successor Mr Clarke said of Mr Bond: "Asda is what it is today because of his leadership." He added that Mr Bond had made the handover process "smooth and seamless".

Last week Asda reported busier-than-usual trading in the two weeks before Christmas.

After the snow left shoppers without last-minute essentials in 2009, Asda said many customers opted to split their big shop over two trips.

December 23 was the chain's busiest festive day with a record four million customers in its 384 UK supermarkets.

The fortnight leading up to Christmas saw 11 stores record sales of more than 7m, compared with the nine that passed the figure in 2009.

Asda did not disclose trading figures for the period, but described the run-up to Christmas as good and said it was "pleased with the continuing momentum".

In November, Asda reported a return to sales growth for the third quarter of its financial year as it benefited from initiatives such as price-matching and the revamp of the supermarket's upmarket Extra Special range.

The retail chain increased efforts to make sure deliveries got through and that stores remained open during the snow.

Mr Clarke said: "The combination of bad weather and people working hard to budget this year has meant the Christmas shop has been spread across a longer period of time, with shoppers making a couple of trips to stock up for the festive season."

Asda said it wheeled out snow ploughs more than 1,600 times and used almost 4.5 million tonnes of salt to keep paths clear of ice.

The company also opened 105 of its stores on Boxing Day, in response to feedback from customers.

Andy Bond –

The CV

Andy Bond was born in March 1965 and was educated at The King's School in Grantham before going to Salford University.

After graduating he spent six years in engineering at Hopkinsons from 1987-1993, starting out as an engineering trainee.

He joined Leeds-based Asda in 1994 as marketing manager.

In 2000 he was appointed managing director of Asda's George clothing brand.

Five years later he was given the top job as Asda's chief executive.

A strong family man, he is married with two children.

His leisure time is spent cycling, raising money for charity and he also describes himself as an armchair sports fan.