Kirk quits Iceland to join Peacock's ahead of float

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Richard Kirk has resigned from his high-profile role as managing director of Iceland, the frozen foods group, to join Peacock's, a family-run clothing retailer that harbours plans to float on the stock market. Mr Kirk will become chief executive and the company expects to float within two years.

Peacock's was founded in Warrington in the 1880s when it traded as Peacock's Penny Bazaars. The company now has 142 shops that offer value-for-money clothing and household textiles. It also runs 60 branches of Millett's, the camping and outdoor clothing retailer, which it acquired in 1991.

Mr Kirk said: "It's a great opportunity. The company has had its ups and downs but since it started expanding business has really been exceptional."

He added that the management had considered other options such as a trade sale but opted for a flotation.

Robert Peacock, chairman, and Hugh Child, managing director, own 80 per cent of the shares and there are no other family members in management positions. Venture capital funds hold most of the remaining shares.

Mr Kirk became a non-executive of Peacock's a year ago. It is thought that he will be buying some shares and will have options over others.

Peacock's plans to open at least 25 new stores this year and opened its first store in Northern Ireland in March. Many are concentrated in the South-west but more have been opening in London recently.

Mr Kirk said the funds raised from the stock market listing would help back the expansion plans as well as releasing capital for the shareholders.

Peacock's was founded by Albert Peacock who traded from small market stores. Shortly before the war the business moved to Cardiff under his son, Harold. Peacock's has annual sales of pounds 85m and employs 2,500 staff. Its accounts for the year to March are currently being completed.

Mr Kirk, 50, joined Iceland from Woolworth's in 1978 and was appointed managing director last year. Iceland said he would receive no compensation and would not be replaced. His responsibilities will be assumed by other directors, the company said.

Mr Kirk received a total of pounds 255,000 last year, plus a pension contribution of pounds 207,000. He also holds more than 400,000 Iceland shares which, at yesterday's price of 152p, were worth pounds 643,000.

Iceland was part of Sir David Alliance's consortium which failed in its pounds 1.1bn bid to acquire the Littlewoods empire last year. Under that plan Iceland would have taken control of Littlewoods' high street stores and N Brown, Sir David's mail-order firm, would have retained the catalogue business.