James Moore: Fox deserves praise for HMV turnaround

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The Independent Online

Outlook Here's a rarity – a chief executive who might actually be worth his enormous salary. The figures unveiled by Simon Fox yesterday were not exactly glowing – but in the current climate HMV's 1.7 per cent fall in like-for-like sales is pretty good going. It looks even better given that it wasn't so long ago that the chain's obituaries were being prepared as it narrowly avoided falling into the hands of a private equity buyer.

Just three ago years ago the sobriquet "troubled" was seemingly being applied to HMV every time it was written about. Customers were increasingly migrating online as new entrants such as Amazon ate into its core market.

Things look different now, as the company has opened new business lines and added vigour to its own internet activities. Mr Fox seems to have learned from the demise of rivals such as Zavvi, which failed to react to the new environment, and yesterday significantly enhanced the company's online offering with the purchase of 7digital, a music download site. He's even shown a bit of chutzpah with a plan to open a string of temporary stores around Christmas time to fill the gaps created by the loss of those rivals. The only issue facing the chain now is that his success is attracting attention and his name is being linked to just about every hot job on the market.

Two years into a three-year turnaround plan, which looks as though it could well revive an iconic name on the High Street, he has pledged to stay put for the moment and has resisted overtures from ITV – but that says more about the company than it does about Mr Fox. A hot job it is not. It's another set of initials that ought to be worrying HMV shareholders, beginning with M and ending with S.

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