End of Foyles dynasty as family duo close chapter on book stores

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The Independent Culture

When the brothers William and Gilbert Foyle failed their civil service exams in 1903, they decided to start selling their old textbooks from their parents' kitchen table. What began as a humble book sale soon grew into a successful, family-run shop and, over the years, Foyles established itself as a literary institution.

Yesterday, that era was brought to a close when the business's last two family members, Christopher Foyle and Bill Samuel, announced their departure.

Mr Foyle, the grandson of William Foyle and chair of the bookshop, announced that he and the vice-chair, Mr Samuel, another grandson, were to "step back" from executive roles at the store from next month.

"Bill and I have spent the past eight and a half years working on turning the business around but have increasingly taken a de facto non-executive role," said Mr Foyle, 65.

"With a strong senior management team and some of the best booksellers in the country, this seems the right time to hand over the day-to-day running of Foyles. With last year's sales figures up by 15 per cent on the previous year, the business could not be in better hands," he added.

A formal statement said that Mr Foyle would continue as chairman but in a non-executive capacity. He had spent "many years putting the company back on its feet and he was now handing it over to the younger generation," a spokesman said.

The family-run bookshop, a landmark at the heart of London's bookselling district on Charing Cross Road, celebrated its centenary in 2003. The same year was marked by the opening of two new branches – Foyles at St Pancras International and Foyles in Westfield London in White City.

The Foyle brothers could have had little idea how long their business would run when they originally set it up. By 1906, they were calling themselves "the largest educational booksellers in London" and they gained an international reputation in the literary industry.

Some have questioned the departure of Mr Foyle and Mr Samuel at such a high point. Liz Thompson, editor of Publishing News, said: "I think it is sad that after having worked so hard to revive Foyles and take the store from its down-at-heel state to a real destination place, they are turning their backs on it."