David Prosser: Sir Stuart fades from the public eye


Outlook Sir Stuart Rose must be counting the days until 4 January 2011, when he is finally due to walk away from Marks & Spencer. He clearly feels thoroughly under-appreciated for his record at M&S, with rows over corporate governance and pay, and a mixed performance over the past 18 months from the retailer having undermined his claim to have rescued it from the clutches of Sir Philip Green six long years ago.

In that context, we should not be surprised that his next move will be a role at the private equity concern Bridgepoint, rather than another high-profile role at a listed company. For those feeling bruised by a long period in the public eye, private equity is not a bad place to hide. Just ask Alan Milburn, the former Labour minister, or Sir James Crosby, the one-time HBOS chief executive, who are both comfortably employed by Bridgepoint and no longer have to deal with carping voters or bumptious shareholders.

Lord Davies, the Standard Chartered executive who became a Trade minister in the last government, knows a bit about both those worlds, and he too has chosen a move into private equity over other more public roles. Then there's Andy Hornby, the HBOS boss humiliated by the credit crisis, who now runs the private equity-owned Alliance Boots, and is flourishing there.

Still, none of those figures have enjoyed the glare of publicity in quite the same way as Sir Stuart. No doubt the money at the new place isn't bad, but will a man who has spent the past few years so obviously enjoying the limelight really be satisfied with a backseat role advising Bridgepoint retail clients such as Hobbycraft (with all due respect to the self-styled "arts and crafts superstore")?

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