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Business News

Kalms in farewell swipe at the City

Sir Stanley Kalms made his final farewell as chairman of Dixons at the electrical group's annual shareholders' meeting yesterday, though his departure was upstaged by a glittering party given in his honour the night before.

At a champagne celebration at Claridge's, in London, Sir Stanley used his valedictory speech to take a swipe at the City and the media. He even had a dig at his boardroom colleagues for "promoting" him to honorary president.

He ribbed David Mayhew, the chairman of Dixons' long-term stockbrokers Cazenove, about exorbitant City fees. He said: "My friend David Mayhew has since bought a fabulous dairy herd and has named the most productive cow Stanley. I am reliably informed that when David does not reach his sales forecast he gets solace milking Stanley."

Later, the ardent Conservative Party supporter said he was expecting a special guest in Iain Duncan Smith but that he was not here yet. At that point a deep female voice boomed out: "He may not be here but I certainly I am." It was Baroness Thatcher.

After such a riotous farewell, yesterday's AGM was something of an anti-climax for Sir Stanley, who is retiring at the age of 70 after running the company for 54 years. Sir Stanley seemed in irritable mood, chastising shareholders for poor questions.

When one shareholder asked about the performance of Wanadoo shares following Dixons' sale of its Freeserve business to the French group last year, Sir Stanley said "you should look it up".

Sir Stanley gave a short speech saying: "They say farewell is such sweet sorrow. I wish you good health and good fortune."

Mark Souhami, Dixons' deputy chairman and Sir Stanley's close ally for 30 years, paid a tribute to the man who took Dixons from a single photographic studio to Britain's biggest electricals retailer.

He described Sir Stanley's stewardship of the company since the age of 16 as "the stuff of business legend". He added that £1,000 invested in Dixons when it floated in 1962 would be worth £1.2m today if rights issues had been taken up. An equivalent investment in the FTSE All Share index would be worth £115,000. Sir Stanley was given a standing ovation.

A trading statement showed like-for-like sales in the 19 weeks to 8 September were 6 per cent up on last year. But gross margins were lower due partly to lower mobile phone margins. The shares closed 3.75p lower at 177.25p.