Laura Ashley joint chief executive quits after 17 months

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The Independent Online

Seventeen months ago, Laura Ashley asked an astonished City to judge the appointment of two Malaysians who had no experience of running a UK-listed company on their performance over the next 18 months.

Seventeen months ago, Laura Ashley asked an astonished City to judge the appointment of two Malaysians who had no experience of running a UK-listed company on their performance over the next 18 months.

One of the joint chief executives, Rebecca Navarednam, resigned yesterday after seeing sales at the group continue to slide. Shareholders, who have seen shares come down from 21.5p to 13p in the past few weeks, will not be amused.

Ms Navarednam stepped down for personal reasons, sources said, adding that she wished to return to her native Malaysia. Prior to her appointment as joint chief executive she had been finance director of the hotel chain Corus & Regal, and a non-executive at Laura Ashley for six months.

Ms Navarednam shared the role with Ainum Mohammad Saaid, a former Malaysian attorney general. Ms Saaid will run the group, following Ms Navarednam's departure, but it is thought unlikely that she will hold the top job on her own on a permanent basis.

The two women were appointed in the wake of Kwan Cheong Ng's resignation last year. He quit in the face of full year losses at the company.

The group announced at the time that it would exit its loss-making European stores to focus on its home market in the UK. But the duo's lack of experience in running a UK retail fashion chain was questioned by analysts and the joint-role structure was considered excessive when the company was trying to simplify its business.

David Walton Masters, the non-executive chairman, told shareholders on their appointment that the pair had "good business skills and experience". He said: "Judge people by their performance."

The group recently lost John Thornton, a former president of Goldman Sachs, as a non-executive director.

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