Booktopia co-founder Tony Nash chooses “better rather than bitter” after being pushed from CEO role

Booktopia Tony Nash

Booktopia co-founder Tony Nash. Source: supplied.

Booktopia co-founder Tony Nash says he has chosen to be “better rather than bitter” after being ousted as CEO from the company he helped launch 18 years ago.

In a statement filed with the ASX on Thursday, the board of Booktopia Group revealed it handed Nash notice to step down from the company’s top job on Wednesday.

The decision to remove Nash from his leadership position comes after a torrid year for the company’s share price.

Shares in Booktopia, which launched on the stock market in December 2020 amid a boom in lockdown-era book sales, have tumbled from a high of around $3 in August 2021 to around 31 cents today.

The e-commerce giant, which Nash has often described as Australia’s only e-commerce competitor to Amazon in the book sector, was challenged when those same lockdown measures hit operations at its Western Sydney distribution centre.

Booktopia chose to “forego sales and revenue” to maintain its customer service, according to the company’s HY22 financial report.

When COVID-19 restrictions eased through late 2021 and early 2022, a return to in-person shopping and renewed spending on dining and leisure also changed buyers’ appetite for e-commerce book sales.

As the company’s struggles intensified, Nash confirmed a wave of employee layoffs in June this year.

Faced with a markedly different business environment compared to its ASX listing in December 2o20, Booktopia conducted “an internal business review focused on, amongst other things, its overall strategy, efficiency, and its cost structure,” the most recent company statement said.

“As part of this process, the board has determined that retaining Tony Nash as the chief growth officer, whilst at the same time appointing a new CEO was not in the best interests of the business going forward.”

As a result, the board says it handed Nash notice to “step away from executive management” so a new CEO can “enter with a fresh start on well laid foundations”.

Nash is to spend his six-month notice period out of the office, after which point he will receive $375,000 reflecting part of the bonus he was set to receive after the end of the 2021 financial year, the board says.

The CEO hunt is underway, the board added, with current CFO Goeff Stalley stepping in as interim CEO.

Taking to LinkedIn after the company announcement, Nash said being placed on “gardening leave for 6 months” after 26 years of company leadership is “a bit freaky for an obsessive entrepreneur”.

But after thanking friends and business associated who reached out, Nash said, “I really am OK.

“Actually, I’m feeling pretty awesome, relaxed and excited about the future.”

The board statement thanked Nash for “building Booktopia from nothing to the $240m turnover company that it is today”, a fact Nash celebrated online.

That positivity extended to his closing note: “For those that have attended my keynotes. I have a new slide Bitter V Better. Our choice. I choose to be Better rather than Bitter.”

“Entrepreneurs rock!”, he added.

SmartCompany has contacted Nash for comment.

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