In the Spotlight: The Next boss for whom high office could be the latest challenge

Simon Wolfson, Next
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The Independent Online

Simon Wolfson, the chief executive of Next, may soon have even bigger fish to fry than the post-election consumer spending slowdown he warned yesterday would hit the retail trade. If the Conservatives win today, Mr Wolfson, one of the party's most ardent supporters in the business community, may see his loyalty rewarded with the offer of a frontbench post in a David Cameron administration.

Widely thought to have been one of the orchestrators of the campaign by business leaders in favour of the Conservatives' national insurance policy, which dominated the early weeks of the election, the very least Mr Wolfson can expect from Mr Cameron is a peerage. Many senior Tories think he would make a very capable minister.

As for Next, while not every shareholder will share the chief executive's political views, most would be very sorry to lose his services. Yesterday's warning was accompanied by another bullish trading statement from the retailer, which has repeatedly defied the recession – and, it must be said, Mr Wolfson's own pessimism.

Mr Wolfson is the son of a former Next chairman, but started at the bottom at the retailer almost 20 years ago. In 1997, six years after starting as a sales assistant in a Next branch in Kensington, he was appointed to the board, having become a protege of the then chief executive David Jones. He took the top job in 2001 – aged just 33, he was the youngest boss in the Footsie.

The retailer has been revitalised over the past three years, repeatedly beating sales targets.

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