Brett Blundy poaches new Lovisa boss from Solomon Lew’s Smiggle

Cheyanne Enciso
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Premier Investments chairman Solomon Lew (L) and Smiggle managing director John Cheston.
Premier Investments chairman Solomon Lew (L) and Smiggle managing director John Cheston. Credit: SUPPLIED/PR IMAGE

Billionaire retail magnate Brett Blundy has poached a key lieutenant from Solomon Lew’s Premier Investments empire to run his global jewellery chain Lovisa.

Lovisa on Monday announced chief executive Victor Herrero will be replaced by John Cheston — the CEO of children’s stationery business Smiggle, which may become a listed company in its own right as Mr Lew’s Premier Investments mulls a demerger.

Mr Herrero is one of the highest-paid executives on the Australian Securities Exchange and took home about $29.1 million in the 2023 financial year. He will depart Lovisa, which has more than 850 stores across 40 markets, on May 31, 2025.

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“The board and I are pleased to announce that Victor has entered an amended 12-month contract,” Mr Blundy said in a statement on Monday.

“The board and I are also pleased to announce that John Cheston will join us as CEO and managing director on the 4th of June 2025.

“John is a highly successful global retailer and will join Lovisa at a very exciting time as we continue our global growth.”

Mr Blundy is Lovisa’s chair and owns a 40 per cent stake in the retailer through his investment vehicle BB Retail Capital. He was also the former owner of shopping mall mainstays Sanity and Bras ‘n’ Things.

Mr Blundy also owns 90 per cent of discount chain Best and Less.

Under Mr Herrero’s new contract, he will be paid $US1.3m ($1.95m) but will not receive a short-term bonus in the 2025 financial year.

His existing long-term incentive due to vest at the end of this financial year remains in place.

Meanwhile, Mr Cheston will be paid $2.35m a year, and another $2.35m in short-term incentives subject to certain performance hurdles.

Subject to shareholder approval, a long-term incentive plan could also add another $7.05m to Mr Cheston’s pay in his first three years as CEO.

Lovisa last November copped a near 75 per cent vote against its remuneration report, earning the retailer another strike in three consecutive years.

The jewellery chain in February reported sales grew 18.2 per cent to $373m in the six months to the end of December, supported by new store openings in Europe and Americas.

Mr Cheston’s departure throws a spanner in the works for Mr Lew as the board considers whether to demerge Smiggle to become an independently listed ASX company by the start of next year.

Premier Investments — which counts Just Jeans, Dotti, Jacqui-E, Jay Jays and Portmans in its portfolio — is also exploring the same for its sleepwear brand Peter Alexander.

For Smiggle, a recent strategic review found more than 30 opportunities for new stores “in the near term in existing markets”, as well as further options for new offshore markets.

A Premier Investments spokeswoman said it had been informed of Mr Cheston’s resignation and was provided 12 months’ notice.

“Premier Retail remains well positioned in its leadership structure and will work through a constructive transition and succession plan in the months ahead,” she said.

Lovisa shares closed down 10.5 per cent to $30.34 on Monday, while shares in Premier Investments closed down 4.3 per cent to $28.78.

Analysts at Citi downgraded Lovisa to neutral from buy but its target price remains at $31.65.

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