Ottakar's sheds three more directors

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The Independent Online

Ottakar's, the bookshop chain that issued a profits warning four months after its finance director quit abruptly, revealed yesterday it had cleared out another three top posts.

Ottakar's, the bookshop chain that issued a profits warning four months after its finance director quit abruptly, revealed yesterday it had cleared out another three top posts.

The company, which said its operational costs had spiralled unexpectedly last month, has parted company with its marketing, IT and new product development directors. It has not had to disclose whether any of the three received compensation because none of the men held board positions. James Heneage, the managing director, said the reshuffle had been prompted by the need to shake up two of its key departments - range buying and marketing. "It's a function of the size we've got to and was absolutely nothing to do with the cost overruns," he said.

The move prompted the resignation of Ottakar's long-standing marketing director, Paul Henderson. Ottakar's intends to seek an external replacement, which analysts said suggested the company held Mr Henderson responsible for its disappointing sales growth over Christmas. Shares in the group fell 14p to 281.5p.

The bookshop chain was forced to rush out its post-Christmas update after a slowdown in like-for-like sales growth to 2.2 per cent cost it £2.5m in lost sales. Richard Ratner,at Seymour Pierce, said the clear-out was "endemic of the fact that there seems to be a bit of turmoil" at the company. He added: "The problems during the second half were not just an issue concerning the overrun of costs, but were a top line matter as well, with Waterstone's [part of HMV] outperforming Ottakar's in terms of sales." He suggested the company could be a takeover candidate, citing Barnes & Noble of the US, or Borders as possible predators.

Ottakar's recently announced the appointment of Michael Hitchcock, formerly the head of finance at MFI, to replace James Knighton as its finance director.

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