Gail Kelly. Picture: SUPPLIED
Gail Kelly. Picture: SUPPLIED

Banker Gail Kelly and Australian retailer Patrick Allaway have both resigned as independent nonexecutive directors of Woolworths with immediate effect, the retailer announced on Monday morning.

Their sudden resignations come just a few months after both stood for re-election as Woolworths board members at its annual general meeting in November, with Kelly gaining 91.72% and Allaway 91.79% shareholder support.

Kelly, a former Nedbank employee who went on to become CEO of Australia’s St George bank from 2002 to 2007 and then the head of the larger Westpac banking group from 2008 to 2015, joined Woolworths’s board in 2015.

She served on the retailer’s nomination, remuneration, sustainability and risk, and compliance committees.

Allaway joined Woolworths’s board in 2014, serving on various committees of the JSE-listed group along with chairing the audit, risk and remuneration committees of its Australian subsidiaries, David Jones and Country Road.

He served on Woolworths’s audit, treasury, remuneration, and risk and compliance committees.

Monday’s resignations of Kelly and Allaway follow an announcement on Thursday that David Jones CEO David Thomas had resigned with immediate effect.

Sudden departures of independent nonexecutives are often interpreted as a protests against governance issues within corporations, and Woolworths gave no reason for Kelly’s and Allaway’s resignations.

“Both Gail and Patrick have made significant contributions to the group and the board thanks them for their service and wishes them both well in their future endeavours,” Woolworths said.

“The board has been continuing to seek to supplement its composition by the appointment of additional independent nonexecutive directors and will be making further announcements in this regard.”

laingr@businesslive.co.za