Kathmandu chief takes top job at Austrade

James Riley
Editorial Director

The Morrison government has reached deep into corporate Australia to find a new chief executive for Austrade, the Australian Trade and Investment Commission, appointing the current group CEO and managing director at Kathmandu Holdings, Xavier Simonet to the role.

As group CEO, Mr Simonet has run the Kathmandu, Rip Curl and Oboz brands for more than five years. He has previously held the roles of CEO at Radley London, International director at Seafolly Group, and also worked for 11 years at luxury group LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) in Europe, Asia and Australia.

Despite the Austrade appointment, Kathmandu Holdings chairman David Kirk said Mr Simonet would remain with the company for up to six months while a replacement was found.

“We are disappointed to lose [Mr Simonet], but understand his desire to take up a senior role in the Australian Public Service, for which he is very well credentialed.,” Mr Kirk said in a statement.

“[Mr Simonet] has led Kathmandu Holdings through a period of growth and repositioning of the company. Kathmandu, Rip Curl and Oboz are three iconic brands which together create a world class outdoor adventure company, diversified by geography, channel to market and seasonality.

Trade minister Andrew Birmingham said Mr Simonet’s appointment comes at a time when Austrade had a “critical” role to play in helping Australian businesses maintain global supply chains, export to a great number of markets, help the education and tourism sectors recover – all while attracting new and game-changing investment to Australia.

Xavier Simonet
Xavier Simone: the new chief executive of Austrade, the Australian Trade and Investment Commission

Mr Simonet takes the helm from interim chief executive Tim Beresford, who has been in the role sine former CEO Stephanie Fahey left the organisation last July.

Simon Birmingham said the role of Austrade had never been more important, as Australian businesses continued to face enormous challenges wrought by the pandemic and its impact on global supply chains and trade relationships.

“Mr Simonet will bring proven and strong leadership to Austrade, as it plays its part in helping Australian businesses to navigate through and bounce back from this significant period of economic and trade uncertainty,” Mr Birmingham said.

“Mr Simonet will bring extensive business acumen and broad experience in international business development having previously worked across Europe, the US and the Asia Pacific.

Born and raised in France, Mr Simonet and his family have chosen to make Australia their home, Mr Birmingham said.

“He brings a passion for Australia found in many a convert alongside an international perspective that will help to identify the right opportunities and messages to boost Australian sales around the world.”

Mr Beresford will remain with Australia, reverting to his previous role as deputy chief executive.

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