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Naked announces Gormley’s retirement and appoints Devlin as its new CEO

Published:  21 November, 2019

Naked Wines has announced founder Rowan Gormley is to retire as part of a leadership reshuffle to prepare for its “next chapter of growth”.

The exit comes on the same day as Naked posted widening pre-tax losses. Losses before tax hit £6.2m in the six months to 30 September, compared to £5.1m in the same period a year earlier. Turnover grew 16% to £87.5m, with the US the largest and fastest growing market.

The online business said Gormley would leave Naked Wines when the Christmas trading season and the Majestic disposal is complete, with current COO Nick Devlin elected to step in Gormley’s footsteps.

The decision to promote Devlin followed an 18-month succession planning process, said the board in a statement released this morning.

“After a thorough review of external candidates, the board elected to promote Nick Devlin to CEO subject to Nick proving himself in the COO role. The board has now concluded that Nick has done just that - and therefore will be appointed to the post of CEO when Rowan retires,” it said.

Welcoming Devlin to his new role, Gormley said: "This is the conclusion of a two-year long process, to configure Naked to be able to fulfil its potential. It is clear that Naked has a huge opportunity in the US - the market is huge, growing and highly profitable, the online Direct to Consumer segment is under penetrated in comparison with other categories, suggesting significant untapped demand and the Naked model is uniquely configured to take advantage of it.”

However, he said, to take this advantage Naked Wines needed to “simplify the business, to a pure play online subscription wine retailer; gather the necessary resources and capital and build the right team for this next chapter of growth”.

With the imminent sale of Majestic and Lay and Wheeler, Naked Wines had delivered on the first two, he added.

“Now it is time to hand over to a new team. It takes one set of skills to take a business from zero to £200m of revenues, and it takes a different set of skills to build it from there. I am a start-up guy, and Nick is the perfect leader for the next chapter of growth, said Gormley.

“It has been a huge honour to lead Naked from a scrappy start up 10 years ago, to an international retailer, with hundreds of thousands of customers, the most delightful team of passionate people anyone could hope to work with and the proven ability to deliver value for shareholders, not at the expense of customers, but to the benefit of customers, suppliers and staff.”

Gormley, who founded Naked in 2008, added he intends to remain a “significant shareholder in Naked”, and would remain available to the company if ever needed.

Devlin said: "Naked has an exciting opportunity ahead to build on its community that connects over half a million wine-drinkers with over 200 of the world's leading independent winemakers. Having been embedded in the business for the last four years, I have seen at first hand both Rowan and the team's passion for transforming the wine industry in a way that benefits both wine drinkers and winemakers.

“We now have the internal capability, clarity of purpose and financial resources to achieve Naked's full potential. I'm looking forward to working closely with the management team to harness this platform and build a business of significant scale."

Thanking Gormley for his leadership over the past decade, chairman John Walden commented: "He has built a company with huge growth potential and with the structure and resources in place to achieve that potential. I am confident that with Nick as CEO, and with his strong team of leaders and dedicated staff, we will deliver significant value for shareholders and customers alike.

“I would also like to thank Greg Hodder, my predecessor as chairman, for his leadership of our board and his contributions as non executive director. During his tenure Greg assembled a talented board and helped the company navigate key strategic decisions that set it up for future success."

This morning's news follows a number of important changes to “enable Naked to enter the next chapter of growth, fulfilling its significant potential, particularly in the US”, said the board, including the previous announcement that John Walden had been appointed to take over from Greg Hodder as chairman.

In addition, Naked Wines said two new leadership roles, developing strategic partnerships in the USA and winemaker relations worldwide had been created.