Flotation riddle after another Harrods director resigns

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Harrods, the opulent west London department store owned by Mohammed al-Fayed, has been hit by the resignation of a fifth director in less than a year.

The revelation poses a question-mark over Mr Fayed's plans to float the prestigious business in New York.

Andre Maeder, Harrods' merchandise director who for six years was responsible for maintaining the store's world-famous product range, left last week. The Swiss-German Mr Maeder is returning to his family in Frankfurt.

Seven days ago the Harrods auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers also suddenly resigned and there has been a string of other boardroom defections.

In November, Harrods' managing director John Whitacre resigned after just seven months in the job to return to his native US. In the same month, Tory MP Charles Wardle, a Harrods board director, left after eight months.

In September, the company's marketing director Kathy Valentine left, after the departure of another director M F V Zingraff in April. A Harrods spokesman said: "The criticism keeps cropping up" that the company can't hold on to its directors. But he added: "It's unfair in a sense as many of the reasons for people leaving are like Andre's. There is nothing beyond that."

Plans to float the business are "very much in the early stages," he said. "We are probably a year away from seeing any movement."