Exit Williams, enter Leighton in Selfridges boardroom shake-up

Galen Weston, the Canadian billionaire who bought Selfridges last year, yesterday moved to strengthen his family's influence at the Oxford Street store by replacing Peter Williams, its chief executive, with Paul Kelly, a long-term Weston acolyte who has run Dublin's Brown Thomas for the past 10 years.

Allan Leighton, the directorship junkie who is on six other company boards, was appointed Selfridges' deputy chairman as part of the shake-up, which also saw Mr Weston's daughter, Alannah, join the department store group's top team.

Observers suggested the announcement meant Mr Leighton, who has advised the Weston's privately-held Wittington Investments for some years, had failed in his attempts to find a role at the company for Martha Lane Fox, lastminute.com's co-founder who was widely rumoured to be joining Wittington in a senior position. Ms Lane Fox has been in talks with the owner of Fortnum & Mason and Heal's since resigning from the internet retailer at the end of last year.

Sources close to the company insisted Mr Williams, Selfridges' former finance director who was awarded the top job after Marks & Spencer poached Vittorio Radice, had not fallen out with Mr Weston but the sudden nature of his departure took some observers by surprise.

Mr Williams, who would not reveal whether he was in line for a pay-off, will stay for just a couple more weeks to show Mr Kelly the ropes. He is understood to be keen for another retailing job at a publicly quoted company, prompting suggestions that he could join the long list of contenders for the vacant post of womenswear director at M&S.

Mr Kelly's move from Brown Thomas, Ireland's answer to Harvey Nichols where he has been managing director for the past 10 years, will fan speculation that Mr Weston may seek to merge his three upmarket retailing groups, which also includes Canada's Holt Renfrew.