Four leave Asprey board in shake-up

JOHN ASPREY has removed his cousin Edward Asprey and three other directors from the main board of the quoted Bond Street jewellery empire Asprey.

The slimmed-down board is part of a shake-up that sees the promotion of Naim Attallah, the publisher, from joint managing director to group chief executive.

Executive directors Edward Asprey, Tom Craig, Edward Green and Robert Philpot are all to resign from the Asprey board on 31 August. They will join the board of a newly created company Asprey (Bond Street) - one of five operating subsidiaries under Asprey plc.

Edward Asprey, who joined the main board in January 1991, is a cousin to John Asprey, the chairman and 51 per cent shareholder. Edward has a small shareholding and runs the Asprey Gun Room in Albemarle Street.

He stressed yesterday that the shake-up simply reflected the new holding company structure. There was no family dispute. 'I'm remaining on the board of the main trading element of the group.'

In the mid-1970s the company was riven by a family row, which pitted John Asprey and his father Eric against another branch of the family.

Asprey, which has close trading ties with the Royal family, has started to feel the impact of the recession.

In March it closed a store in the City of London. In June it reported a 21 per cent fall in annual pre-tax profits to pounds 19.3m despite a much-enlarged business.

Mr Attallah said the changes were necessary to cope with the rapid expansion of Asprey. Over the past two years it has purchased Mappin & Webb, Garrard & Co, and Rene Boivin in Paris.

Most recently it paid the struggling Ratners Group pounds 23m for Watches of Switzerland. Advised by Hambro Magan, it is looking for more high-quality acquisitions.

The changes leave the Asprey board with three executive directors and three non-executives, including Geoffrey Maitland Smith, chairman of Sears, which controls 25 per cent of Asprey.

From 1 September Asprey will be a holding company only. The divisions under it are: Asprey (Bond Street); Garrard & Co; Mappin & Webb; Watches of Switzerland; and Other Businesses, which includes Hamilton & Inches of Edinburgh.

The company said: 'The new structure will allow the principal businesses to operate autonomously under central management guidance.'

The holding company board would 'concentrate on group management issues and adopt a more strategic focus', it said.

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