Olympian tasks force Cassani to quit Marks & Spencer board

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The Independent Online

Barbara Cassani, the former chief executive of the low cost airline Go who is now heading London's 2012 Olympic bid, is to give up her non-executive directorship at Marks & Spencer. Ms Cassani, who took up the part-time board position only last October on a £34,000-a-year salary, officially steps down from the role at the high street retailer on 30 April.

Her resignation, Marks & Spencer said, was "in view of her increasing commitments to London's bid for the Olympic Games for 2012".

Ms Cassani said: "While I would have liked to stay longer at Marks & Spencer, I do not believe I am able to give the role of non-executive director the attention it deserves without it affecting my focus on the task of leading the Olympic bid."

Marks & Spencer requires its non-executive directors to work a minimum of 15 days a year at the company and attend the scheduled eight board meetings a year. A spokesperson said yesterday, however, that in reality, Marks & Spencer's non-executive directors worked more than 15 days a year. "It's always difficult to envisage what a workload will be," she said, referring to Ms Cassani's decision to quit.

Her resignation reduces the number of non-executive directors at Marks & Spencer to five, including the former MI5 boss Stella Rimmington, although the company will replace her seat on the board as it wants to have a minimum of six non-executive directors.

Marks & Spencer has six executive directors plus a chairman, Luc Vandevelde. He said yesterday: "Marks & Spencer would not wish to distract her [Ms Cassani] in any way from such an important cause."

Ms Cassani's appointment as head of London's Olympic bid - where she does three days a week in her role as chairman - surprised some since she is American although she said at the time she was a "Londoner".