McGeorge to step down as Matalan chief executive

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The Independent Online

Alistair McGeorge is to step down as the chief executive of Matalan after four years at the helm, becoming the latest senior executive to leave the value fashion and homewares retailer.

Mr McGeorge is understood to have quit earlier this month and will start to relinquish his chief executive responsibilities from the end of October.

At this point, Matalan's finance director Paul Gilbert will take on more of the day-to-day management of the business. In further developments, Amin Kassam, Matalan's retail director, is also believed to be heading for the exit.

The two departures would be a blow for Matalan, which is still smarting from Primark poaching its buying director, John Lyttle, this summer. Matalan declined to comment yesterday.

Mr McGeorge, who previously ran the Littlewoods retail group, will remain at the 203-store retailer until about January by which time Matalan hopes to have hired a replacement. However, he may remain as a non-executive director at Matalan.

The retailer has continued to grow its profits and sales this year. For the year to 27 February, Matalan grew its underlying operating profits by 30 per cent to £132.9m. But Matalan was forced to pull a sale of the business in February. Private equity firms baulked at the lofty £1.5bn price tag put on Matalan by its founder John Hargreaves, whose family trust own 100 per cent of the retailer's shares.

Instead, Matalan – which Mr Hargreaves founded in 1985 – subsequently completed a £525m refinancing. This enabled Mr Hargreaves, a billionaire who is based in Monaco, to pay himself a special dividend of about £250m.

While Matalan's staff received a payment following the refinancing, Mr McGeorge would have netted a far bigger payout from a sale of the chain.

While this is likely to have been a factor in McGeorge's decision to quit, the exact reasons for his departure are unclear. But sources suggested that Matalan is mulling a flotation next year and they did not see eye-to-eye on this issue.