Booker finds its dream team

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The Independent Online
BOOKER, THE struggling cash -and-carry operator that has been spurned by two potential bidders in the last two months, claimed to have found "the dream team" yesterday when it named a new chairman and chief executive.

The new chief executive is Stuart Rose, the former Burton director who was brought in by Argos in the spring to run the catalogue retailer's defence against the hostile bid from Great Universal Stores. Joining as chairman is John Napier, the former managing director of Hays' logistics business. His arrival heralds the departure of Jonathan Taylor, the current chairman, who has been out of favour with City institutions.

Mr Rose, who was paid pounds 540,000 for just a few months work when Argos fell to the GUS bid, will enjoy a similarly generous contract with Booker. He will receive a salary of pounds 400,000 and 1.5m share options priced at around 100p. As Booker is still considered vulnerable to a bid Mr Rose will enjoy a two-year contract for the first two years and will be paid a full year's salary if Booker is taken over at any time within the first 12 months. A takeover would also trigger his share options. "It is not about money but I have to protect my family," Mr Rose said.

Mr Rose, who will join in 10 days' time, said he supports Booker's stated strategy of disposing of its non-core businesses, such as salmon farming, to concentrate on the core cash- and-carry business. "I want to make Booker more of a retailer and a company that is more responsive to its customers," said Mr Rose. "It is a strong business, with a big turnover and the potential for strong cash flow."

Mr Taylor said he felt he was departing with Booker in safe hands. "It is a good team with a doughty, battle-hardened chief executive and hugely experienced chairman who brings key distribution and logistics skills."

The City welcomed the news, marking Booker shares 15p higher at 106.5p. One analyst said: "The market reaction suggests that this (Stuart Rose) is a better calibre of appointment than the City had feared."

Mr Rose, 49, spent many years at Marks & Spencer where he was involved in food retailing. More recently he has been chief executive of Burton Menswear, Dorothy Perkins and Principles. He was linked with the chief executive job at WH Smith last year.

Booker held takeover talks with Somerfield and then Budgens earlier in the summer. However, both companies eventually walked away from a possible deal.