Fayed hires French chief executive to take the reins at Harrods

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The Independent Online

Harrods, the upmarket department store owned by Mohamed Fayed, has appointed a French veteran of the luxury-goods industry as its first chief executive.

Richard Simonin is joining from Escada, the European womenswear designer, and will take on a new powerful role under Mr Fayed. He will have day-to-day control of the Harrods property interests, footwear and accessories business and aviation operations, as well as the department store. His brief is to extend the Harrods brand into new areas.

Mr Simonin, 50, was previously head of the Escada perfumes division which was bought by Wella, and before that chairman of Givenchy Couture and Kenzo, parts of the LVMH luxury goods empire. He begins on 14 July -- Bastille Day -- along with two new executives from French companies.

Eric Decouvelaere, from the department store group Printemps, will be the store's retail strategy and organisation director with a brief to shake up the Harrods's supply chain. And Anne-Marie Verdin, a Briton, will become Harrods's marketing and communications director. Ms Verdin began her career at the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather in London and is a former head of marketing at Disneyland Paris.

A Harrods spokesman played down the trio's French connections. "An awful lot of luxury brands come from France and the French seem to have an affinity with luxury. Beyond that it is a coincidence," he said.

Their arrival comes at a sensitive time for Harrods. The Knightsbridge store has been affected by the downturn in tourism and consumer confidence, and there has been speculation Mr Fayed may be prepared to sell the company. He denied the rumours in May when it was suggested Philip Green, owner of Bhs, had made an informal takeover offer.

Mr Fayed himself has signalled his intention to quit Britain for Geneva, having abandoned his quest for a British passport.

Mr Simonin's appointment comes after the departure of managing director Max Rigelman in February after barely a month in the post. The two previous managing directors had tenures of just 16 months and seven months respectively.

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