M&S director Lomax in jeopardy as he loses battle to unseat chairman

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The Independent Online

Kevin Lomax's attempt to install a new chairman at Marks & Spencer is set to backfire, forcing him to quit the M&S board.

Kevin Lomax's attempt to install a new chairman at Marks & Spencer is set to backfire, forcing him to quit the M&S board.

Mr Lomax, the senior independent director, wants to replace the retailer's interim chairman, Paul Myners. He is concerned that Mr Myners has become too close to the chief executive, Stuart Rose, after their successful defence against Philip Green's £9bn hostile approach last year.

But Mr Myners is keen to stay on in the job, and has the backing of Mr Rose. Well-placed insiders say Mr Rose is "annoyed" by Mr Lomax's stance, believing it is damaging business.

Both institutional and private investors - a significant part of M&S's share register - are also thought to be backing Mr Myners. And should he win, insiders now believe Mr Lomax, who is also executive chairman of the software group Misys, will have no option but to quit.

"The balance of probability is that Kevin would not want to carry on, in any case. Kevin has a lot of good points. But the biggest issue is the responsibility to the company," said one insider. An institutional shareholder added: "One of them will get turfed out. Lomax is going to get kicked in."

Critics of Mr Myners have pointed to the number of board posts he holds, claiming they would not allow him to focus fully on M&S. Among others, he chairs the Guardian Media Group, owner of The Guardian and The Observer newspapers. It is understood that Mr Myners is not prepared to drop this role. But it is thought that he might give up other posts, specifically his directorship at the Bank of New York, which he has held since 2002.

M&S has struggled to find a new chairman, and eyebrows have been raised about how long it has taken Mr Lomax to draw up a shortlist of candidates. It emerged last week that he had approached the ousted Bertelsmann chief executive, Thomas Middelhoff, who had turned down the role.

"Clearly, Stuart wants Myners and it's very hard for people to ignore the view of the chief executive," said one source.

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