M&S Ousts Chairman and CEO, Recruits Rose as Hired Gun

01 June 2004

In what some see as a panic measure, Britain's largest high street retailer Marks & Spencer spent the holiday weekend on a hiring and firing spree.

Out -- ahead of schedule -- went part-time Belgian chairman Luc Vandevelde, whose departure later this year had already been agreed; also ousted Monday was chief executive Roger Holmes, occupant of the ailing retail giant's hotseat for less than two years.

The cause of all this anthill scurrying? The looming takeover bid by Monaco-based retail billionaire Philip Green, whose collection of UK retail chains already includes Arcadia and Bhs (British Home Stores).

The new ceo of M&S is Stuart Rose who, as former chairman of Arcadia before its acquisition, had ample (and uncomfortable) firsthand experience of Green's takeover methodology. Rose is also a former M&S veteran, having spent seventeen years with the company. His first act as ceo was to call Green "out of courtesy" [and likely with glee] to inform him of his new role.

The other half of the defence team is banker Paul Myners, already a non-executive director at M&S and a pillar of the British establishment. His formidable address book includes a direct line to the chancellor of the exchequer.

Myners also serves as a non-executive director of mm02 and the Bank of New York. He is a a member of the Financial Reporting Council, a director of Gartmore Global Trust and chairs the Guardian Media Group and Aspem Re, the largest independent re-insurance company in London.

Green has yet to make a formal move on M&S but has publicly declared his intention to bid. The entrepreneur is variously described by the financial press as "colourful", "flamboyant", or "maverick"; despite which he has an enviable reputation for turning round the fortunes of underperforming acquisitions at almost the speed of sound!

However, his first experience at the helm of a public company, discount retailer Amber Day, was less happy and in 1990 resulted in his ejection after a profits warning debacle.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff