Rose changes tune on karaoke stake

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The Independent Online

Marks & Spencer's chief executive, Sir Stuart Rose, has sold his £100,000 stake in a chain of karaoke bars set up by the internet entrepreneur Martha Lane Fox after protests from investors who said it could compromise her independence as a non-executive director of M&S.

Sir Stuart revealed the sale in a speech yesterday to the Investor Relations Society in London. "To avoid any doubt, I have unwound the investment in Lucky Voice," he said. "Perhaps it should be called Unlucky Voice."

Sir Stuart bought his 1.1 per cent stake in the company, the brainchild of Ms Lane Fox, founder of, in January. Critics, including the Association of British Insurers, questioned whether she could remain independent in her role at M&S after Sir Stuart's investment in her company. Ms Lane Fox sits on M&S's audit committee and the remuneration committee, which sets executive pay.

A spokesman for the retailer said: "Sir Stuart has unwound his stake in the karaoke business – he doesn't feel there were any conflicts but he doesn't want such a small point to distract from the bigger issues of managing the group."

The run-in with shareholders over Lucky Voice was ill-timed given the row over the retailer's plans for a management overhaul, under which Sir Stuart is to combine the roles of chief executive and chairman.

M&S has refused to back down on plans for Sir Stuart to take on the role of executive chairman when Lord Burns, the present chairman, stands down next month. The City's corporate governance practice recommends the separation of the chairman and chief executive roles. M&S has also rejected calls to put all directors up for re-election every year.