End of an era: JB Hi-Fi’s Uechtritz retires


Today marks the end of an era for technology and entertainment retailer JB Hi-Fi, with long-time chief executive Richard Uechtritz announcing his decision to retire from the company in July or August.

Uechtritz (pictured) joined the company in July 2000 to lead a consortium of private equity investors in a management buy-in. With his chief operating officer Terry Smart — who joined at the same time and will now succeed Uechtritz, the CEO stuck around for the the next decade, growing revenue from $145 million to a forecast $2.8 billion this year.

“Investors who have held JB Hi-Fi shares since the IPO in October 2003 to today will have received an annual rate of return of 48 percent, compared to the ASX200 returning 5.1 percent per annum over the same period,” said the company’s chairman Patrick Elliott in a statement announcing the CEO’s departure.

“Ten years is a good innings as a CEO,” said Uechtritz. “The company is in great shape — with a strong balance sheet and good growth prospects. I will be leaving to pursue my personal and philanthropic interests that being a full-time executive does not allow.”

The outgoing CEO will take a six month leave of absence after retiring, and will then rejoin JB Hi-Fi’s board as a non-executive director in early 2011. Uechtritz will also retain a consulting arrangement with JB Hi-Fi for three years.

Uechtritz still holds about $30 million worth of JB Hi-Fi shares, along with significant options under his long-term incentive package.

The news comes as JB Hi-Fi today reported what it said was a “record” half-year net profit of $76 million (up from $59 million in the same period 12 months earlier), from $1.5 billion worth of sales (up from $1.26 billion the year before) in the six months ending 31 December.

The company opened 15 new stores in the six month reporting period and plans to open another 7 in the first six months of 2010. It currently has 124 stores in Australia and 10 in New Zealand. It is targeting 210 stores and plans to open 13 to 15 new stores each year.

Image credit: JB Hi-Fi