Robert Willett, new CEO of Al Futtaim Group, is expected to "lead the group into a new era of positive change". Image Credit: Supplied picture

Dubai: Dubai-based Al Futtaim Group Sunday announced that it has appointed Robert Willett, former head of US consumer electronics retailer Best Buy, as CEO. He will focus on the group's core business and joint ventures in 13 countries.

Omar Al Futtaim, Vice-Chairman of Al Futtaim Group, said: "I welcome Bob as the Group CEO. He and I have shared several insights and strategies on the way forward and he has truly understood the company's overall values and footprint. I am confident he will bring considerable strategic experience to the Group and enable us become truly customer-centric."

The appointment of Willett is one of the rare cases that a Middle East family business appoints a non-family member as head of its operations, people close to the trading group said.

Willett is expected to "lead the group into a new era of positive change", Al Futtaim announced. "Building on solid foundations in place", Willett has said he will be focusing on organic growth and customer-centricity. He said he has laid out "several good housekeeping strategies" in his quest to focus on nearly 20,000 direct and indirect group associates in the GCC countries alone, plus Egypt, Syria, Morocco, Singapore, Malaysia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Western Europe.

"The appointment attracts a lot of attention from the US and UK business sectors as people are acknowledging that the Middle East remains a top labour market for managers," an Al Futtaim spokesperson told Gulf News.

"Keeping it simple is how we are going to do things," said Willett. "I'm paranoid about maximising the customer experience so my guiding principle to grow the Al Futtaim business across the landscape comes from this simple premise: Focus on the customer and make sure you do the right thing from the employees' perspective.

"Al Futtaim has the pedigree, people and products to grow significantly across the region and increase its relevance to its local customers and society across multiple industries. Most importantly it has a stable of brands that any simple shopkeeper like me would die for," he added.

Willett, who began his career with Marks & Spencer in the UK, has distinguished himself creditably on the international retailing landscape by holding group CEO and Managing Director positions in major companies across Europe, Asia and the US, Al Futtaim said.

Prior to Best Buy, Willett was global managing partner of Accenture's retail practices and Executive Committee member of the global management consultancy.

Willett is also a member of the LightHaus Logic Board, an analytics systems provider in Canada.

Under Willett, Best Buy International implemented a global "multi channel" growth strategy to maximise the retailer's opportunities beyond North America, entering China, Mexico, Turkey and nine countries in Europe, in addition to Canada.

Leading business house

Established in the 1930s, Al Futtaim initially operated as a trading company. Rapid development throughout the 1940s and 1950s saw the company establish itself regionally as an integrated commercial, industrial and services organisation, positioning itself as one of the leading businesses in the lower Gulf region. Headquartered in Dubai, Al Futtaim is structured into seven operational divisions; Automotive, Engineering, Electronics & Technology, Retail, Financial Services, General Services, Education, Real Estate and Construction, Leisure and Joint Ventures.

Today, Al Futtaim operates through more than 65 companies in sectors as diverse as commerce, industry and services, touching people across the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Pakistan, Singapore, Malaysia and Europe. The success of Al Futtaim is attributed to proactively managing change while upholding the values of integrity, service and social responsibility.