Although Sir Richard has not threatened to leave, the board is mindful that he may decide to go if his chosen successor, Peter Salsbury, is not give the chief executive position.
This would be regarded as a disaster in many quarters because Sir Richard is highly regarded for his record at M&S over the years, even though the company has lost its touch in recent months. A sudden and acrimonious departure would have a damaging effect on the business.
The possibility of a fait a compli arises as the M&S board prepares to meet tomorrow to discuss the management succession. It is understood that one of the non-executive directors has put himself forward as a possible deputy chairman of the company in an attempt to defuse the battle between Mr Salsbury and Keith Oates, the other key candiate for the job.
Brian Baldock, a former deputy chairman of Guinness, has offered to take on a similar position at M&S. However, it is thought that the board is unlikely to back his nomination ahead of an external candidate.
Insiders say that creating the new position of deputy chairman would only be worthwhile if it brought in outside experience to the business.
Lord MacLaurin, the former Tesco chairman, is seen as one possibility although he currently has a busy schedule combining his non-executive directorships with his role as chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board.
M&S is under growing pressure from institutional investors to resolve the management succession quickly.
The company had originally intended to make an announcement in May following the completion of a strategic review.Reuse content