After 35 years of stockbroking for some of the biggest houses and investors in Australia and the UK, the Secret Broker is regaling Stockhead readers with his colourful war stories — from the trading floor to the dealer’s desk.
A bit of a bizarre week, after Brad Banducci appeared on Four Corners on the Monday and then resigned as the CEO of Woolworths on the Wednesday.

You know, when there is a duopoly and you are the head honcho of one of them, there is not much to do but be as humble and as honest as you are allowed to be in a situation where you get collared by a reporter.

Turning up for a TV interview, dressed as a staff member in their everyday uniform and wearing the same badge, you are opening yourself up to a PR disaster.

And boy have we had a few recently, topped off by Prince Andrew’s effort to appear to be normal in a suit, instead of his official Naval uniform. Andrew was soon stripped of all duties and pushed to the back of future photo shoots.

Now we have Brad dressed up as an employee but on a A$3m a year basic salary package. I get the feeling we won’t be seeing him back in Australia’s corporate world for a very long time.

I would speculate that he may pop up later in his native South Africa or in the land of America.

As Warren Buffett always says:

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.“

Reading some of the reports after his resignation, Woolworth’s chairman said they had engaged an international headhunting firm to replace him.

He also said it had been going on since 2023, which I find hard to believe. Surely anyone who has run a corner store can be a candidate for a job where you only have one competitor.

Now they have decided that his replacement will be an internal employee, from the vast pool that they have.

When Coles needed a rejuvenation, they went over to the UK and headhunted some of the best supermarket talent from the UK chain Tescos.

They seduced them with the virtues of living on the warm sunny shores of Australia versus the cold, damp, forever drizzling UK. Oh and the fact that they would be joining a company with only one rival.

Anyone would jump at that chance. All you need to do is just do what they both do now – watch and follow each other on whatever moves the other one does first and then sprinkle it with a bit of UK knowledge.

When I was first sent over to Australia for a few years, I was taken aback by the supermarkets over here. I couldn’t understand why you had to go to one shopping centre for Coles and another one for Woolworths.

Their standard of presentation reminded me of Jimmy the Greek’s corner shop in Fulham. Boxes strewn everywhere like they had just come out of the back of his van and thrown on the floor.

The only thing that impressed me was the size of the rump steaks on the shelves and, if you could find it, the price of them.

I was used to the butchers back home still using pounds as weight instead of kilos, so that was the only bit of European style I could find in either Woolworths or Coles.

Coming from the UK, we must have had 17 different supermarket brands to choose from and you would always have two or three on the same high street.

Now how about this – it was only in 2008 that both supermarkets agreed to ban restrictive leases.

These leases prevented other supermarkets from opening up in the same shopping centre as them.

There were, wait for it, over 700 leases that had these restriction clauses in them. No wonder I could only find one in each shopping centre when I first arrived.

In the top 100 retailers in the world (by sales) in 2023, Woolworths came in at number 20 and Coles came in at number 34 (Tesco #19).

To give you an idea of what that means to a country of only 25m people, Alibaba came in at 25 and eBay came in at 37.

Down, down…

So, you have two supermarkets who control 90% of the market in Australia and now one of their CEOs has walked away with a battered reputation and a very bruised ego.

All of his hangers-on will now be scrambling to explain that ‘we were never really that close’ or ‘in the back of our minds…’.

We would see this a lot in broking, especially when you had someone who could wield power and influence as a client and then bang, in one go, that someone could bring you down.

One of the biggest examples of this was over at Goldman Sachs, when one of their golden boys, Mike Sherwood, fell on his sword after getting too close to the retail billionaire Sir Philip Green.

Mike was being talked up to potentially becoming the number one guy at Goldman Sachs before Sir Philip became embroiled in a tax scam and then got charged for touching up his pilates teacher in the wrong places.

With his reputation falling into tatters overnight, poor old Mike went from being a golden boy earning $30m yearly bonus payments, to no longer being employed in the merchant banking world.

If you study some of the teflon-coated rich b…..ds, they always employ a spokesperson to do their talking and press interviews, so they are always one step removed from a pesky journalist.

If your spokesperson says the wrong thing, you just sack them. Send out the message that it was your spokesperson who stepped out of line and not you.

Now, after all of this, I’m off to ALDI as they are cheaper and better than the other two and only control 10% of the market, so I like to show the underdogs some support.

Their eye fillet, cheese and nibbles and own label wines are outstanding value and never disappoint.

I hear they may have a new store manager.

I wonder who that could be?


The Secret Broker can be found on Twitter here @SecretBrokerAU or on email at [email protected].

Feel free to contact him with your best stock tips and ideas.