Moss Bros chief executive ousted

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The Independent Online

Adrian wright, the chief executive of Moss Bros, has been ousted from the retailer he dragged back into the black during two years at the helm. The company said it had promoted Philip Mountford, a former Versace executive who has been trading director at Moss Bros since 2002, to take over.

Observers said Mr Mountford had been linked with several vacant retailing directorships, and Moss Bros had been keen to keep him.

Keith Hamill, the chairman, said the company was on course to meet market expectations of a pre-tax profit of £1m for 2003, marking the end of the first stage of its recovery. He said: "Adrian has stabilised the business, improved its structure and organisation, put confidence back in the people. But he has no product experience in his background. Once you have the company in good order, the issue is much more about the product."

Mr Wright was hired two years ago from Bluewater, the Kent shopping centre of which he had been managing director. He had previously worked at BAA, the privatised airports operator. Mr Mountford, who had been touted as a candidate for the vacant chief executive role at ailing Austin Reed, and even as a potential head of clothing for Marks & Spencer, was hired by Mr Wright from Versace, where he was the luxury goods group's UK managing director.

Moss Bros said that it saw a strong improvement in its performance over Christmas, when leisurewear at its Hugo Boss and Cecil Gee chains was in demand, and in the January sales, when cut-price suits sold well. Stock levels at the end of January were 10 per cent lower than the previous year and gross margins for the previous 12 months were 7 per cent up because the right mix of product meant it wasn't forced into discounting. Like-for-like sales were flat for the year.