There’s been plenty of executive churn in the grocery retail industry in the past 18 months. So The Grocer decided to track down some of the recently departed executives to see what they are doing today. Whether it’s taking time out to indulge their creativity, or living on a Taiwanese mountainside, their stories are as varied as they are fascinating. Over three pages we take a look at how some of the UK market’s biggest ex-names have decided to move on in their careers - and their lives

stuart mitchell
Now: mD, Watsons in TAiwan
If you can’t move mountains, go and live on one, says Stuart Mitchell, former MD of Sainsbury, who is now learning Mandarin on the slopes of Yang Ming Shan mountain overlooking Taipei in Taiwan, where he lives with his wife and children.
He has taken a senior position in AS Watson’s health and beauty retail division, which runs 6,800 stores around the world (including Superdrug in the UK).
Mitchell heads up its H&B business in Taiwan, its largest market in Asia, where he expects the number of stores under the Watsons Your Personal Store fascia to grow from 340 to 400 by the end of the year. He also runs 15 stores that are part of Korean cosmetics chain Missha.
Mitchell says: “The best thing about the business here is the people. They are well educated, very hard working, have a great sense of humour, are very friendly and have great commitment to Watsons. There is a massive ‘can do’ attitude and ideas come to fruition very quickly. ‘No’ is not a word that is used in business here.”
He adds: “The industry here is very healthy. Trends come and go very quickly. I think things are five to 10 years behind the UK except for merchandising, where strong Japanese and Korean influences mean there is much many UK retailers can learn. I would like to further develop the team so they can take advantage of the great opportunities within the group.”

Jack Sinclair
Now: Retail Consultant
“I am now working on a number of different projects in the retail sector,” says Jack Sinclair. And that’s about as detailed as it gets.
The former Safeway marketing and trading director left last year after it was sold to Morrisons. He holds non-executive director posts at McCurrachs and Las Bodegas (the Argentine wine company set up with ex-Safeway colleagues Carlos Criado-Perez and Des Cross), but is less forthcoming about his other activities, despite rumours that he has been lining up possible deals in retail.
With his history in the trade - starting at Fine Fare and doing a stint at Tesco from 1986 in the fresh foods division before joining Safeway in 1990 where he worked in a number of departments - Sinclair is an old hand.
But he is as excited about the industry as he ever was: “It is at a very exciting stage and there are lots of opportunities for both manufacturers and retailers. Consumers are becoming much more concerned about health issues and more aware of the way food is reared, grown, produced and processed. There are opportunities in our industry to respond to those consumer trends.”

tony denunzio
Now: chairman, vendex kbb
When Tony DeNunzio admitted last year that Tesco’s position in food was unassailable, no one would have predicted his imminent departure. But it was perhaps this that finally pushed him overseas and into non-food retailing.
This June, he landed the top job at Dutch group Vendex KBB, where he is responsible for an estate spanning seven countries and almost 1,700 stores including department stores, fashion boutiques and DIY stores.
DeNunzio arrived at a turbulent time for the European retail market, but has already made his mark, cutting prices paid to suppliers, and via the Vendex KBB Growth Fund, putting more behind the group’s marketing efforts, price cuts for consumers and, where necessary, margin retention.
DeNunzio declined to be interviewed for this article. However his legacy in the UK, overtaking Sainsbury to put Asda in the number two spot, is an important one.
No doubt the former Asda man will prove equally influential to Vendex KBB.

Carlos Criado-Perez
Now: Chairman, Dinosol Supermercados
Former Safeway boss Carlos Criado-Perez is relishing life as executive chairman at Dinosol Supermercados, which is Spain’s seventh-biggest retailer by revenue and operates as SuperSol and HiperDino.
Having advised Permira on the £609m purchase of Dinosol from Ahold, he is now charged with restoring its fortunes.
“The company has been bought in circumstances that are not the best,” he says, “so one of my missions is to create a team that can turn the company around and be sold at a profit when the venture capitalists want to sell.”
With a strong presence in the Canary Islands - half of Dinosol’s revenue comes from there - Criado-Perez spends much of his time on the islands of Tenerife and Lanzarote. “It’s like combining holidays and work,” he says with a laugh.
He always keeps a close eye on the competition and expects big things from a little-known Spanish own-brand retailer called Mercadonas.
“It is a phenomenon,” he says. “I haven’t seen anything like it anywhere before, but I think it will be the next big thing, and next year it will probably be expanding outside Spain.”
When he isn’t focused on retail, he spends his time working with ex-Safeway chums Jack Sinclair and Des Cross on a project to get more Argentine wine into the UK with Las Bodegas.

Eddie Thompson
Now: owner/chairman of Dundee United FC
Juggling roles is something that Eddie Thompson has got pretty good at doing.
While running the convenience chain Morning Noon & Night, he was also chairman of Dundee United Football Club, chairman of the SRC, president of the Scottish Grocers’ Federation, and sat on the boards of the BRC, CBI Scotland, the Lottery Commission and Camelot.
Little wonder that Thompson was awarded the OBE in June this year.
He remains president of the SRC, and on the boards of the BRC, the SGF and CBI Scotland. But he sold MN&N - the business he started with a blank sheet of paper after he left Watson & Philip - in August last year to Scotmid and now spends most of his time thinking football.
“I’m trying to get United up the league and playing football in Europe. I will be totally relinquishing the trade positions in the next year,” he says. And in five years’ time? “Hopefully still owning and running my football club!”

malcolm Hepworth
Now: Retail Consultant
Malcolm Hepworth left The Co-operative Group’s food retail business last September after seven years in charge - during which time he masterminded its transformation into a convenience store giant.
He is now a retail consultant. His current project - he won’t say for whom - involves him assessing the strengths and weaknesses of top UK retailers. Previous projects have taken him to North America, mainland Europe and China.
He adds: “I enjoy the freedom of my current position. It means more time for my family, especially Fiona, my seven year old, something I haven’t been able to do in recent years.”
Taking it easier does not mean he has taken his eye off the ball. His opinions on the state of the industry are as strong as ever.
One of his big gripes is the lack of flexibility in working hours for store staff when the peak periods for sales are after 6pm weekdays and the weekends. “Product availability problems are at their worst during the very hours there is little or no management cover,” he says. “So if you want easy sales growth solve the sensitive subject of management coverage and supply issues in these ‘antisocial’ hours.”

Bill Grimsey
Now: taking a gap year
Grimsey was chief executive of Big Food Group at the time it was acquired by Baugur at the beginning of this year. He was offered the top job at Booker, but turned it down.
He’s now taking what he calls a gap year, travelling, relaxing at his holiday home in Majorca and learning how to fly. “Speaking for myself and Bill Hoskins [Booker finance director] we both had a horrendous four years dealing with the mess we inherited,” he says.
There have been rumours the two Bills plan to go into business together, but Grimsey says nothing is imminent: “We’re looking at options. We would like to work together at some point.”

John Bowes
Now: Author
John Bowes is that rare thing in retail, having spent his whole career with one busness - The Co-operative Group, where he held more than 20 different positions.
He says his most satisfying moment was switching the society’s entire own-brand coffee range to Fairtrade product as part of its Responsible Retailing programme, which Bowes devised.
He says: “We had been able to achieve something that could both meet our commercial objectives while at the same time bring real benefits to some of the poorest people on the planet. It was a very important day for the Co-op.”
This benevolent side to Bowes’ character has come out again in his new career as an author.
Based in the Lake District, the former Co-op man will publish his first book, a history of one of the oldest houses in Westmorland, in October. Next year he will be contributing to a book on fair trade and he is also working on a biography of a 17th century poet, though he won’t divulge who.
When not writing, Bowes has also presented occasional seminars and judged industry awards.
But he says: “While I am always ready to discuss interesting consultancy projects, only an exceptional challenge could tempt me back into the retail business on a full-time basis.”
He thinks significant changes need to be made if the sector is to progress, saying: “The interdependency of the industry and the complexity of many of the issues mean material progress is much more likely to result from a coherent, comprehensive and determined collective response than from any one organisation acting in isolation.
“I know this is much more easily stated than addressed but I think it represents a fundamental challenge to the industry going forward. The major players in the industry have a great deal of power. With great power comes great responsibility.”

from a yacht in the med to a new life in the city
Sir Peter Davis is on the boards of Johnson Cod 2, the Shetland cod farming company, UBS in Switzerland, the Royal Opera House, Business in the Community and is involved in a number of private equity ventures. The former Sainsbury boss is also believed to be spending a lot of time soaking up the sun on his yacht in the south of France. And why not?
Eoin McGettigan
left Musgrave Budgens Londis to take over Malcolm Hepworth’s job at The Co-operative Group in February this year. But he left that role after just three months so that he could replace Dick Reeves as director of food at Dunnes Stores in the Republic of Ireland. Word is that he is already having a big impact on the business.
Morton Middleditch retired from the chairmanship at Spar last year, and when he isn’t on the golf course spends his time writing a column for our sister mag Convenience Store.
Middleditch is also putting together a book on the history of Spar, which will be published to coincide with the symbol group’s 50th anniversary in 2007.
Robin Whitbread quit Somerfield, where he was buying & marketing director and Kwik Save’s MD, after failing to get the top job in the group. He had no post to go to. But at the time (October last year) there were reports Whitbread was part of a team lining up a bid for Sainsbury (where he cut his retail teeth). However, Whitbread has not resurfaced. As yet.
Graham White caused a furore when it emerged in December 2003 that he would earn £6.8m from the sale of Londis. After much toing and froing, Londis members sold their business to Musgrave. White left the symbol group, of which he was chief exec, in 2004 with a greatly reduced payoff and is running a small private investment company.