Kingfisher man to take Hamleys job

Hamleys, the toy retailer, is expected to announce the appointment of Chris Ash as chief executive this morning, ending a year long search.

Mr Ash has been a senior director at Kingfisher for 12 years, including the last eight as board director at Woolworths and Superdrug.

Mr Ash replaces Geoff Cullinan, who quit as chief executive last October after just seven months in the job. Mr Cullinan had a background in consultancy and Hamleys said at the time that the group needed a retailer in such a key position. He was paid compensation of pounds 142,000.

As part of the boardroom re-shuffle, Stephen Woodbridge, Hamleys' managing director, will step down as an executive director. He will become a non- executive instead. It was felt that a company of Hamleys' size did not need a managing director as well as a chief executive.

Chris Ash will join Hamleys next month. He is a career retailer and prior to joining Kingfisher he spent 12 years with Boots, BAT and Argyll.

Mr Ash's appointment completes a boardroom rethink by chairman Howard Dyer. In May David Fogel joined the board as a result of the pounds 8.7m Toy Stack acquisition. Mr Fogel became merchandising and buying director.

Hamleys is keen to develop its brand but is wary of diluting the magic of the name, which is synonymous with the flagship Regent Street store. The company said the acquisition of Mr Fogel's 11-strong Toy Stack chain was a way of expanding into shopping malls and high streets without devaluing the Hamleys name. It is restricting that to airport shops and its flagship sites.

Hamleys shares have been under pressure this year. From 439.5p last November they have slumped to 239p in July. Yesterday they were unchanged at 297.5p.