Australia’s biggest publican is returning to a more ‘hands-on’ management structure, with Bruce Mathieson Jr resuming his role as national operations manager.

The partnership between the Mathieson family and Woolworths that resulted in Australian Leisure & Hospitality (ALH) has seen some shake-up in line with the supermarket giant’s proclaimed major restructure, following appointment of new chief executive Brad Banducci and falling profits and market share.

This, and the re-appointment of Roger Corbett as Chairman, has brought about the decision to re-install Mathieson Jr to his original role of national operations manager, and ALH veteran Steve Howarth to retire from the position.

Officially a ‘forced redundancy’, Howarth told PubTIC he saw the writing on the role and realised it was his “opportunity” to try something new.

“We parted on very good terms,” said Howarth, who has been national operations manager for the past two years, and with the company for more than 11 years.

“I was appointed by Woolworths, as part of their desire to fill the position with a non-family executive when Bruce Snr retired from an executive position.

“The marriage with Woolworths at ALH was wonderful, but could be very complicated, as the corporate and family-run businesses are almost diametrically opposed.

“One of the good things about the Mathiesons is that they like to keep things fairly simply. With Bruce Jr back as national operations manager, he will be able to control the operations of the group more directly.”

Howarth noted the group has seen “staggering” growth over the past ten years, and the uniformity of a large corporation has meant a constant challenge to keep the assets in line with their communities.

A return to a pub-family focus, with Mathieson Jr liaising with state managers and spending more time at the 330 pubs in the portfolio, could be a prudent step amid Woolworths battles with public relations and Australia’s attitude toward tall poppies.

The partnership between the Mathiesons and Woolworth began back in 2003, with Mathieson Snr in the role of CEO and his son performing national operations. Bruce Jr will for the time being assume both roles.

ALH recently completed Stage 1 of a massive overhaul of flagship, the Crown Nest Hotel
ALH recently completed Stage 1 of a massive overhaul of flagship, the Crown Nest Hotel


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