Archie Norman to chair textile firm

ARCHIE NORMAN, the Asda chairman, has joined a tiny textiles company as non-executive chairman in a deal that could eventually give him a 14 per cent stake in the group.

Mr Norman has agreed to become chairman of French, a UK maker of bedding, curtains and cushions, which prior to news of his appointment had a stock market value of just pounds 6m. The shares immediately soared by almost 50 per cent as the market responded to the imminent arrival of the man hailed as a retail guru thanks to his work turning around Asda.

French recorded a loss of pounds 2m on sales of pounds 23m last year. Its chief executive is William Gleave, to whom Mr Norman has acted as unofficial mentor for the past three years. Mr Norman will advise French on strategic issues as well as chairing its monthly board meetings. He will be paid a salary of pounds 30,000 and has been awarded 2 million share options at prices ranging from 35.5p to 71p. The shares closed 20p higher at 62.5p.

"Our task is continue to grow in a sector which has been depressed and is ripe for consolidation," Mr Norman said.

Mr Gleave commented: "What Archie Norman brings to the table is a much bigger profile, and also in some degree an institutional following in terms of potential new investors."

Mr Norman will remain chairman of Asda for the transition period following its pounds 6.7bn takeover by Wal-Mart of the US. He is not expected to remain at the group in the longer term. At French he replaces Jeremy French, who will become a non-executive director.