Kingfisher looks to Reckitt for next general counsel

Sapna Dutta to succeed Elizabeth Messud as FTSE 100 company’s top lawyer in October

Sapna Dutta Image courtesy of Kingfisher

British multinational Kingfisher has appointed a new general counsel from fellow FTSE 100 company Reckitt. 

London-based Sapna Dutta will join the home and DIY multinational in October after six years at Reckitt, where she is currently SVP and general counsel for the company’s global health business, and for material litigation and investigations on a group-wide basis. 

At Kingfisher she will succeed former group general counsel Elizabeth Messud, who retired at the end of June. Kingfisher owns well-known brands including B&Q, Screwfix and Brico Dépôt and is the biggest home improvement retailer in Europe, with more than 80,000 employees across eight countries and revenue of just north of £13bn in the year to the end of January. 

Kingfisher CEO, Thierry Garnier, said Dutta “brings a breadth of strategic legal expertise, a strong commitment to people and talent development, and a proven track record of working successfully across different sectors, countries and cultures. She will be a great addition to our team and we look forward to welcoming her to Kingfisher.” 

Dutta joined Reckitt in 2017 after a three-year stint at AstraZeneca, where she served as senior counsel for M&A and later as global legal director for the company’s core respiratory, inflammation and autoimmune portfolio. Prior to that Dutta, who is dual qualified in the US and UK, practised as a corporate associate in the New York and London offices of US firm Davis Polk.

At Kingfisher, Dutta will lead a legal function that was centralised into a single team under Messud’s leadership as part of a company-wide transformation and restrucuring programme; before each of the nine retailers Kingfisher owns had their own head of legal who reported to the group’s chief financial officer. For her part, Messud has retired after a 30-year legal career that included time at Torys, Clifford Chance and various senior legal roles at Nestlé before she joined Kingfisher as group legal director in 2017. 

Kingfisher’s financial results for the year to 31 January marked an end to the pandemic boom for home improvement retailers, as tougher trading conditions and higher business costs saw pre-tax profits plummet almost 40% to £611m against a 0.9% dip in revenue to £13.6bn.  

The company said in March when it reported the results that it was “comfortable” with analyst expectations for adjusted profit before tax to fall from £758m in FY22/23 to £633m in the current year. It predicted sales growth for the current year of 1.9%, or 0.5% like-for-like.

Garnier said in the report that “across all our markets, sales have remained resilient in both DIY and DIFM/trade channels, with like-for-like sales 15.6% ahead of pre-pandemic levels.”

He added: “We have maintained a sharp focus on pricing to deliver value to our customers during this challenging period for household finances, while at the same time managing our cost inflation pressures effectively.”

The company announced plans to ramp up e-commerce sales, which have grown by 146% over the last three years, as well as to open up to 85 new Screwfix stores across the UK and France in the current year and up to 80 new Castorama stores in Poland over the next five years.  

Dutta said: “I am excited to be part of an international retailer with strong growth opportunities and an agile, innovative culture. Kingfisher’s purpose of making better homes accessible for everyone, commitment to its responsible business strategy and focus on its people all particularly resonate with me and I’m delighted to be joining the team.”

In March 2018, Kingfisher unveiled a trimmed down legal panel comprising 17 law firms including Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Allen & Overy, Hogan Lovells, Eversheds Sutherland, Womble Bond Dickinson and Foot Anstey. At the time, Messud said a streamlined panel would allow the PLC to “develop better working relationships with each of the successful firms.”

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