Redbubble founder Martin Hosking re-takes the reins, after chief Barry Newstead is ousted


Redbubble's Martin Hosking and former chief Barry Newstead. Source: supplied.

Redbubble founder Martin Hosking has stepped back into the chief executive role he left behind in 2018, following the termination of his replacement Barry Newstead.

Newstead was removed following a turbulent few months for the ASX-listed business.

Its Q2 update, released at the end of December, saw the Aussie business’ stock crash by 43%, falling from $1.81 to $1.01 overnight, as it reported a below-expectations performance.

While the price has been trending up since then, it hasn’t got anywhere near its pre-December levels, tracking instead between about $1 and $1.25.

The next investor update, for the first half of the year, is expected to report growth in operating revenues of 25%, year-on-year, and positive cashflow.

However, in a statement, Redbubble chair Richard Cawsey said the business has “undertaken a review of strategy and its operations” and came to the conclusion that “a change in leadership is necessary”.

The ousting also follows the resignation of Paul Gordon as company secretary.

In June 2018, Hosking made the decision to step down as chief executive of the online art marketplace he founded.

At the time, he told SmartCompany he was striving to put his ego aside and serve the business, rather than himself.

“The company is more than the person who created it,” he said at the time.

If, after 12 years of operation, everyone in the business was looking to the founder for answers, then “you have not set up the company for renewal”, he explained.

“The company and its mission is greater than any individual, including the founder.”

However, 18 months later, Hosking has been re-appointed as interim chief.

In an investor conference call, Cawsey said a search for a permanent replacement would begin “immediately”.

“Martin knows the business inside out. He is passionate about the business and he, like us all, has the desire and intent to ensure the company reaches its full potential,” Cawsey said.

Founded in 2006, Redbubble grew to be valued at $288 million when it listed on the ASX in 2016.

Hosking has never shied away from talking about the hardship that Aussie startups can face, recounting his time in the ‘Valley of Death’, where he was seeing no growth, no revenue and no new users.

“Failure is so close and that makes you very anxious,” he told SmartCompany back in 2016.

For him, it wasn’t until 2010 that things started to change for the better.

“Inevitably, when you look back, you can’t see exactly the reason why it was. It tends to be a few things that happen at the same time,” he said.

“You need confidence, and it’s dangerous to be really, really under-funded.”

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