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Wed, Jun 02, 2004 - Page 12 News List

Marks and Spencer fires CEO as part of reshuffle

POOR SALES The 120-year-old retailer has become the target of takeover bids, prompting the company to seek leaders that will `regain some of its former glory'

AFP , LONDON

Troubled British retail giant Marks and Spencer announced a sweeping boardroom clear-out on Monday which will see both its chief executive and chairman removed with immediate effect.

The clothes-to-food group -- arguably the best-known name in British retailing -- which is battling indifferent profits as well as an often dowdy image, has sacked chief executive Roger Holmes, it said in a statement.

Replacing Holmes, who had been in the job for less than two years, is Stuart Rose, formerly chief executive of British clothing shop group Arcadia, who began his retail career with Marks and Spencer more than 30 years ago.

"It was the unanimous view of the non-executives that if M and S is to achieve its full potential that a new CEO was required," said Paul Myners, the group's senior non-executive director, who has become interim chairman.

Myners replaces Luc Vandevelde. The group had announced on May 10 that Vandevelde would step down as soon as a new chairman was found, but he will now also be leaving immediately.

The news comes just days after the billionaire owner of the Arcadia group, British retail tycoon Philip Green, said that he was preparing to launch a possible takeover bid for the ailing chain.

However, Rose insisted that selling up was not an option.

"I've been here five minutes and I didn't take this job to sell the business," he told reporters shortly after the appointment was announced. "My task ... is to bring this business back to regain some of its former glory."

Nonetheless, the prospect of predators circling the venerable 120-year-old chain is a sign of how much Marks and Spencer has floundered recently.

Last week, the group announced a modest 3 percent increase in pretax profits over the past financial year, a figure which left analysts somewhat underwhelmed.

Marks and Spencer's clothing range has been particularly criticized for falling behind smaller and arguably more trendy rivals such as Next, New Look and Spanish chain Zara.

The company insisted Monday that Rose was the right man to turn the group around.

"Stuart brings a wealth of retail experience to the job and the board believes that he is the ideal person to deliver the full potential of Marks and Spencer for the benefit of its shareholders and customers," the company statement said.

Rose, 55, started his retail career in 1972 as a management trainee with Marks and Spencer, rising over 17 years to head its European division in Paris before moving on.

Also joining the board is Charles Wilson, an executive who has previously worked closely with Rose at Arcadia, as well as two other companies.

And although Vandevelde had planned to stay on while a successor was sought, now that Rose was on board, "Luc believes it is inappropriate to prolong his departure," the statement added.

Myners will remain as interim chairman until a permanent appointment is made.

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