Fresh setback for Argos as chief departs

ARGOS' defence against the pounds 1.6bn hostile bid from Great Universal Stores (GUS) suffered a big setback yesterday when it emerged that Bob Stewart, its finance director, would take early retirement by the end of the year. The surprise news comes just weeks after Argos announced that Mike Smith, its chief executive, was unable to fulfil his duties due to ill-health. The company also lost its director of toy buying last week.

The announcement significantly weakens the hand of Argos whose acting chief executive Stuart Rose has only been on board for less than three weeks. He has barely had a chance to familiarise himself with the company before the publication of its defence document yesterday.

"It will be a concern to shareholders," one analyst said. "The market's perception of Argos over the years has been based on the two-man team of Mike Smith and Bob Stewart. The defence makes much of the success in the past but if neither of those two are going to be there that starts to look quite shaky."

The announcement about Mr Stewart was buried on Page 26, subsection 3 (b) of the defence document, and said conversations about his retirement took place late last year. This was before the GUS bid and before it emerged that Mr Smith was too ill to carry on as chief executive.

Argos denied that Mr Stewart , 53, might have been forced out after a clash of personalities with Mr Rose. It said Mr Stewart was going of his own volition after 16 years on the board.

Mr Stewart was paid pounds 200,000 last year but this will be increased to pounds 360,000 from the beginning of April in order to enable a higher pension payment. He will also be paid a one-off bonus of pounds 196,000. He will stay in his post until at least the end of June, the likely period of the bid.

Argos denied that the developments would damage its chances of survival. "It has no significance for the bid and when we have fought off this unwelcome offer we shall recruit a first class finance director," it said.

The news on Mr Stewart overshadowed the Argos defence which failed to offer figures on current trading or on the possibility of a return of funds to shareholders. Alongside results which showed a 9 per cent drop in profits to pounds 128m, it repeated its view that GUS was trying to get Argos on the cheap. It promised a review of costs and the product range which Mr Rose said did not offer enough choice on prices. The catalogue would become "more modern" and the stores made more welcoming.

GUS, which is offering 570p per share for Argos, dismissed the defence and criticised its "nostalgic" reference to its track record: "It merely confirms our view that Argos is a mature format that has run out of steam," said Lord Wolfson, GUS chairman. Argos shares fell 6p to 605p. GUS shares closed 9p higher at 796p.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map