Hamleys head quits six months into the job

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Hamleys, owner of the famous toyshop in London's Regent Street, saw its shares dip yesterday after announcing the departure of Geoffrey Cullinan, who only became chief executive six months ago.

Mr Cullinan, who is expected to receive a payoff in the region of pounds 100,000, was appointed in March having helped found his own management consultancy firm, OC&C Strategy Consultants. Howard Dyer, chairman, denied that there had been any personality clashes with the rest of the board. "In my view, it was the transition from consultancy to operations which didn't suit him."

The news sent shares in the group down 5p to 365.5p, despite the announcement of an 18 per cent rise in half-year profits to pounds 1.98m.

Mr Dyer said the board had decided to appoint Mr Cullinan earlier in the year to give strategic direction to the group and complement the operational strengths of Stephen Woodbridge, managing director. "I like him. He's a good man and he's an interesting man. But both the company and he decided it wasn't the right appointment and he has resigned. The company will be paying compensation, but he will continue to help with a number of development projects under way," Mr Dyer said.

Mr Cullinan, who was being paid pounds 150,000 on a one-year contract, joined Hamleys after his company was bought out by Coopers & Lybrand Associates in 1991. Prior to that, he was with Booz, Allen & Hamilton, the international management consultancy firm.

Mr Dyer said compensation had been agreed in principle, but he would not reveal what it was as the deal has yet to be signed off. It would not, however, be the full annual amount. A replacement chief executive, who would come from the retailing sector, would be appointed in the new year, he said.

One analyst said the departure had hit the shares, but "there was no reason to be worried from Hamleys' point of view". All the directors led by Mr Dyer, who helped revitalise the group after losses in the early 1990s, remained aboard, he said.

Hamleys said profits at its main Regent Street store had grown 17 per cent in the half year to July, despite the impact on tourist numbers of the IRA bombing campaign and Tube strikes in the capital.

Investment column, page 22