New Look close to hiring ex-Matalan boss as chair

New Look is on the verge of hiring Alistair McGeorge, the former chief executive of Matalan, as its chairman at a turbulent time for the fashion retailer.

Mr McGeorge, who stepped down from Matalan last September, is thought to be in advanced discussions with New Look about taking the role of executive chairman, following the exit of John Gildersleeve last month.

In a further rotation of the retailer's revolving doors, New Look's chief executive Carl McPhail left in March and its founder Tom Singh returned to steady the ship after a calamitous year for the private equity-owned chain.

This week, it emerged that Mr Singh had persuaded group design director Barbara Horspool to remain at New Look as creative director instead of joining the Oasis fashion chain. New Look, which has more than 1,000 stores globally, declined to comment yesterday.

The retailer is thought to have interviewed a number of candidates but Mr McGeorge, who has also worked at Littlewoods, is now the favourite to take the role.

He is highly regarded in the retail sector and his experience of growing Matalan's sales and profits should benefit New Look, which, in its most recent figures, suffered a 9.1 per cent slump in like-for-like sales for the 15 weeks to 8 January.

Once New Look has chosen an executive chairman, it will decide whether to hire a new chief executive. Mr Singh – who founded New Look in 1969 and holds a 22.4 per cent stake – will continue to focus on New Look's product strategy.

In one of several setbacks over the past 14 months, New Look's private equity owners, Apax and Permira – which own 27 per cent each of the chain – pulled a £1.8bn flotation in February, blaming "volatile" stock market conditions. Analysts said New Look would have been forced to issue a number of profit warnings had it got the float away.

Last year, New Look also faced a damning investigation by Channel 4 into a factory used by a subcontractor of one of New Look's suppliers. It also suffered disruption by moving head office staff from Weymouth to London.

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