French Connection chairman resigns

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The Independent Online
French Connection, the fashion retailer and wholesaler, lost its company doctor yesterday when its chairman, George Wardale, resigned. Mr Wardale is leaving to become chairman of Libra Health, a management buyout from Nestor BNA. He will be replaced by David Bernstein, formerly managing director at Pentland Group, the sports wholesaling company. Mr Wardale had a year of his contract left to run and will be paid about £240,000 compensation.

Mr Wardale, who has previously performed emergency surgery at the mineral water company Highland Spring, joined French Connection three years ago when the company was making losses of £10m on sales of £44m. Since then it has sold its peripheral businesses such as Bukta, the sports wholesaling company, to concentrate on its main operations, including the French Connection and Nicole Farhi retailing and wholesaling operations. The group made profits of £5m last year.

Mr Wardale's skills in areas such as financial controls are believed to have complemented the creative talents of French Connection's founder and chief executive, Stephen Marks.

Nicholas Mather, the finance director, said: "George has been with us for three years and his prime aim was to turn the business around. That has now been completed and he feels his expertise can be better utilised elsewhere."

Mr Mather said French Connection was looking to expand in the UK and abroad. Four shops were opened in the US last year and a further two should follow this year. It is also hoping to develop its wholesale business in Europe and the Far East.