M&S set for clash with investors on chairmanship

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The Independent Online

Marks & Spencer will clash with investors this week over the retailer's continued refusal to countenance splitting up executive chairman Sir Stuart Rose's job.

The UK Shareholders' Association, representing about 200,000 private shareholders, said it "might well support" a resolution that the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF) has tabled for the company's AGM on Wednesday. The resolution calls for M&S to appoint a non-executive chairman by the middle of next year.

Marks & Spencer refused to comment yesterday on the chances of a significant shareholder rebellion, but is likely to ignore LAPFF's calls.

It has previously suggested that resolution was only an advisory vote that would not require action.

Nonetheless, strong support for LAPFF's position will embarrass M&S. Reports over the weekend indicated that at least half the company's shareholders are planning either to back LAPFF's motion or to abstain from the vote.

M&S has been on the defensive since Sir Stuart, pictured, combined the two roles of chairman and chief executive in March last year, four years after leaving the top job at Arcadia group to become M&S chief executive.

Best practice guides for corporate governance insist that the two jobs should be kept separate.

Two weeks ago, M&S vehemently denied media reports that it was likely to speed up the process of finding a new chief executive.

Some reports suggested the company was lining up headhunters to start the search for a new boss as soon as the end of this year.

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