YO! chairman steps down, former Home Retail Group CEO to take over

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Experienced John Walden joins sushi group as chairman.

In a press release YO! (formerly YO! Sushi) writes that Eric Nicoli, who joined the company as chairman in 2015 following the acquisition of the company by Mayfair Private Equity, is stepping down.

Taking over is John Walden, who has more than 20 years experience of multi-channel, consumer-driven retailing.

As well as advising businesses and private equity investors through Inversion, the US-based retail-focused management and strategy consultancy he founded 13 years ago, he has extensive board experience of businesses both in the UK and US.

His previous roles include chairman at Naked Wines, where he oversaw the sale of Majestic Wines and its enhanced focus on the US market, and executive chairman at Holland & Barratt following the acquisition by LetterOne. From 2012-2016, Walden was managing director of Argos and then chief executive of its parent company Home Retail Group, where he led the digital transformation and sale of Argos to J Sainsbury.

YO! chief executive officer Richard Hodgson said the last 12 months have demonstrated the value in its diversified multi-channel strategy.

In October, expanded its partnership with Co-op to 160 stores. This was a continuation of a company-wide UK restructure in response to “changes in consumer behaviour” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

YO!’s growth into retail channels also includes pre-packaged sushi in 400 Sainsbury’s stores and 100 David Lloyd Leisure Centres. The group’s Taiko brand is also available in Waitrose. In addition, the company has 52 kiosks in Tesco stores and 30 kiosks under the Panku brand in Asda.

“Against the backdrop of a very difficult year for hospitality businesses across the globe, we have been able to grow thanks to our retail business in North America, which has remained open throughout. As we now start to emerge from the pandemic, we see significant opportunities to further progress our multi-channel strategy and I am delighted that John has agreed to join our board as chairman at this time,” said Hodgson.

“He brings with him extensive experience from both sides of the Atlantic which will be invaluable as the group moves to the next phase of growth. I want to thank Eric for his role in the transformation of the group over the last six years and wish him all the best with his future projects,” he added.

Walden said that it was “very exciting” to be joining the group at this stage in its development.

“Richard and the team have created a food group like no other, and there is still a lot to play for. I am excited about bringing my experience to the board and supporting Richard and the management team as they look to capitalise on this opportunity,” he added.