Primark chief executive steps down

The veteran founder of budget fashion chain Primark stepped down today from day-to-day control of the firm.

Chief executive Arthur Ryan, who founded the 191-store retailer in 1969 and is now in his early 70s, will become chairman of the business.

He will be replaced by chief operating officer Paul Marchant, who has experience at several high street chains including Debenhams, New Look and Topman.

Mr Ryan is a reclusive but respected retailer who has overseen the growth of the chain from the opening of its first store in Dublin, where it is called Penneys, 40 years ago.

The business began opening out-of-town shops in Britain in 1973 and has since expanded to Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands and Germany.

The retailer's ability to convert catwalk trends into purse-friendly pieces within weeks has also seen the term "Primani" enter the high street lexicon.

Primark is wholly owned by Associated British Foods and has been one of the high street's top performers during the recession.

Like-for-like sales at the chain were up by 7% over the financial year to September 12, driven by strong trading in the UK.

Mr Ryan said: "I am extremely proud of all that Primark has achieved. As chairman, I am looking forward to working with Paul to ensure the ongoing success and future development of the business."

AB Foods chief executive George Weston called Mr Ryan the "creator, driving force and inspiration behind the business".

Mr Marchant joined Primark in January and has been working with the retail veteran since then. He will take the reins as chief executive on Monday.

Mr Ryan - a friend of Burtons-to-Topshop retail billionaire Sir Philip Green - is a workaholic with an eye for detail in the business.

His intense privacy is said to come from fear of kidnapping by paramilitaries during the Troubles.