Another break with the past for Laura Ashley

LAURA ASHLEY, the troubled women's fashion retailer that was rescued by a Malaysian group in April, made another break with the past yesterday with the surprise announcement that Sir Bernard Ashley is retiring from the group with immediate effect.

Sir Bernard, the widower of Laura Ashley, who founded the company in 1953, is 71 but had not been expected to retire. At the company's annual meeting in London yesterday he was listed to seek re-election as a non- executive director but opted to step down instead.

The company said that following the pounds 44m cash injection by the Malaysian backers, MUI, Sir Bernard felt the company was on a more stable footing and that the timing was right for him to go.

However, Nicholas Ashley, Sir Bernard's son, is joining the board as a non-executive, so the family connection will remain.