Board clearout continues at WH Smith

WH Smith, the high street retailer that is seeking to revitalise its core chain, took its boardroom shake-up a step further yesterday. It announced that the head of the main WH Smith division was to leave with immediate effect.

Peter Bamford, who has served on the main board for only 18 months, becomes the ninth WH Smith director to leave the group since its profits warning two years ago. The total compensation bill for the departures will now exceed pounds 1m.

However, Bill Cockburn, who took over as the group's chief executive in January 1996, denied that it represented a "bloodbath". He said: "It is time for a change and Peter and I were agreed on that. He has had a particularly tempestuous year. It is the first year of our strategic review and the next three are about implementation and consolidation. It needs someone fresh to come in."

Analysts said Mr Bamford's departure was because he was too closely associated with the decline in performance of the main chain which culminated in the profits warning in May 1995.

The main WH Smith business has been hit by competition from supermarkets on key product areas such as newspapers and magazines, books, music and videos. However, Mr Cockburn said Mr Bamford's departure was "amicable".

Institutional investors supported the move. One shareholder said: "We think Bill Cockburn has a difficult job and it is going to be a long slog to get the main business right. But there needed to be a fresh overhaul of the management and we would be supportive of what has happened rather than discouraged by it. So far he [Mr Cockburn] is doing all the right things."

Mr Cockburn will become chairman of WH Smith Retail while the company seeks a replacement for Mr Bamford. He said he was keen to move closer to the main high street business, which has 400 stores, and that the search for a new managing director for the business was "well advanced".

Mr Bamford, 43, joined WH Smith in 1987 and has been running the main retail business for the past three years. He was appointed to the main board in late 1995. He was paid pounds 118,000 last year and employed on a two-year rolling contract. He will receive compensation though the company declined to reveal details yesterday.

Mr Bamford's exit is the latest in a series of boardroom departures from the retail group as it attempts to shrug off its reputation as a slumbering underachiever.

He follows the former chief executive, Sir Malcolm Field, who left last year and Peter Troughton, the former head of WH Smith Retail, who left with pounds 400,000 compensation. David Roberts, the former head of WH Smith Business Supplies, was made redundant following the sale of the Niceday business last year. He received pounds 505,000 in compensation.

Others who have left include Philip Smith, a member of the founding Smith family who was a non-executive director, and John Napier, the former finance director who retired at the age of 59 last year when Keith Hammil, the former finance director of the Forte group, was brought in.

Two other non-executive directors have stepped down while Simon Burke, the former head of Virgin Our-Price, left last year to return to the Virgin empire.

WH Smith also announced yesterday it was hiving off its retail concessions operation from the WH Smith retail division into a separate business. It will have its own managing director.

It has 100 outlets in railway stations and airports and generates sales of pounds 120m.

A spokesman said: "It has been a Cinderella business. But it is a jewel that should be buffed up."

WH Smith already has a successful business in the US operating stores in railways and airports. It has recently opened at outlet in Singapore and is looking at opening another in the new Hong Kong Airport.

In addition, the group is transferring the logistics and distribution arm of WH Smith Retail into a separate business to be run by Richard Handover, who runs the WH Smith News wholesale business.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Client Services Manager - Relationship Management - London

£30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Recruitment Genius: Credit Controller / Customer Service

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...

Recruitment Genius: Tax Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - OTE £25,000

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project