The long-awaited
announcement of the Woolworths succession is finally in, with the company revealing
morning that supermarkets head Michael Luscombe has been given the nod to
become the new Woolies chief, replacing King Roger Corbett who is retiring
after eight years in charge.

Luscombe, who worked
his way up from trainee manager 26 years ago to head of Woolworths’s biggest
and most-profitable division, will take on the top job on 1 October – becoming the grocer’s
fourth CEO since it went public again in 1993.

And he’s got some decent sized shoes to fill. Under Corbett, Woolworths shares
and earnings tripled as he expanded in liquor and won market share from competitors. And yesterday,
Woolies overtook Coles Myer as Australia’s biggest retailer.

But, as Woolies
chairman James Strong says in the company’s statement, the board feels a “special
satisfaction” that Luscombe is the right man for the job – “a classic example
of the Woolworths style, appointed from within, with significant retail experience
across a wide spectrum of roles and areas”.

And UBS analyst Michael Peet, quoted on Bloomberg today, agrees that Luscombe is “definitely capable of doing the job”. Although
he says there is “still unfinished business with integrating the acquisitions
and targets to deliver that the market is expecting”.

On this, Strong says there will be a “period of
close cooperation between Michael and Roger over the next four months”.
And apparently Corbett will be announcing some consequential changes in
the management structure, “in close consultation” with Luscombe, soon.

As for what the market thinks; Woolworths
shares had risen 7 cents to $19.12 at the time of publication.