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July 5, 2022

The Very Group taps ex-Walmart exec Desclée as CEO

The Very Group, which operates digital retailer, has named former president and CEO of Walmart Japan, Lionel Desclée, as group CEO.

By Beth Wright

Desclée will join The Very Group on 19 September from McKinsey & Company, where he is a senior advisor, succeeding Henry Birch who will step down on 24 September after four and a half years in the role.

Prior to McKinsey & Company, Desclée spent three years as president and CEO of Walmart in Japan, where he led a 35,000-strong team at Seiyu, the Japanese supermarket business. Before joining Walmart, Lionel spent three years as president and CEO of Tom & Co, which operates over 160 pet care stores in Belgium, Luxembourg and France.

A non-executive board member at both Tom & Co and BPost, the Belgian company responsible for the delivery of national and international mail, Desclée has also held a number of senior roles at global retail business Delhaize Group and led finance and business planning for six retail brands including Food Lion, Hannaford, and Bottom Dollar Food.

Meanwhile, under Henry Birch’s leadership, The Very Group broke the GBP2bn-sales mark for the first time in 2020 and, in 2021, delivered record revenue and EBITDA. Having joined in 2018, Birch has helped to transform the group, including implementing a rebrand, and launching its highly automated fulfilment centre in the East Midlands.

“It has been a privilege to lead this amazing and committed team through such an important chapter in the company’s development. As I move onto my next challenge, I am proud of the progress we have made together for our customers and our people. I am confident that under Lionel’s leadership, The Very Group will continue to thrive in the years ahead,” Birch says.

Dirk Van den Berghe, The Very Group ’s chairman, adds Desclée is a highly respected leader with a wealth of global experience across digital and both food and non-food omnichannel retail.

“He has a proven track record of achieving growth through transformation and operational excellence, developing and coaching world-class teams, and helping companies become even more customer-centric. I am confident that Lionel’s collaborative and strategic approach will prove invaluable as The Very Group further develops its proposition, having successfully navigated the pandemic,” he notes.

“Henry has guided the group superbly over the last four and a half years. He is a dedicated, innovative and people-oriented leader, and he leaves a fantastic legacy. When he heads off to take on his next challenge later this year, it will be with our very best wishes.”

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