Asprey names successor to Attallah

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The Independent Online
NIGEL COPE

Asprey, the troubled royal jeweller that announced a pounds 10m loss in June, ushered in a new era yesterday when it announced a successor to Naim Attallah, the company's flamboyant chief executive.

Ian Dahl, a contrastingly sober-suited figure and something of a unknown quantity in UK retailing, joins Asprey tomorrow. He will work in conjunction with Mr Attallah during an unspecified hand-over period before taking over. Asprey had said that Mr Attallah would retire from the group by the end of next year but he will now step down sooner than was widely expected.

At the company's annual meeting last month, Mr Attallah required the support of proxy votes from institutional investors to secure his re-election to the board after he was voted down by shareholders at the meeting.

Mr Attallah welcomed the transition: "When we both feel comfortable that Ian is established and that he doesn't need me any more I will step down."

The shares responded positively to the new appointment, rising 12 per cent to 112p.

Mr Dahl, 50, has spent the past 18 months working as a retail consultant. He was previously chief executive of Sportsgirl, an Australian fashion group where he spent six years, including two as chief executive, turning its retail division from a loss into profit.

His earlier career includes a 10-year stint at Marks & Spencer where he started as a management trainee, followed by spells at House of Fraser and Myer, the Australian department store group.

Sitting next to each other yesterday, the pair appeared chalk and cheese. While Mr Attallah was wearing a pink silk shirt, designer tie, odd sock and jewellery, Mr Dahl preferred the merchant banker look with pin-stripes, white shirt and more low-key neckwear.

Their management styles are also likely to differ, with Mr Dahl bringing a detail-driven, hard-nosed retail approach compared with Mr Attallah's more entrepreneurial style.

Mr Dahl said: "Businesses like this tend to go through an entrepreneurial stage, but we need a period of consolidation and a return to the norms of retailing. That means strong financial management, customer service, focus on shrinkage and other costs."

Asprey would give no details of Mr Dahl's contract of remuneration. The company is still seeking a replacement for Nick Harrington as finance director and said it expected to make an announcement soon.

Mr Attallah sounded as though he was looking forward to pursuing other interests after leaving the group: "I want to go more into the arts... I need a new dimension and there's still a lot of kick left in me." There would be an element of sadness when he handed over the reins.

City Diary, page 18

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