Selfridges group serves up new job for Martha Lane Fox
Monday 29 December 2003
Martha Lane Fox, the co-founder of lastminute.com, is in talks to take a job in the off-line world with Galen Weston, the Canadian tycoon who has just bought Selfridges.
Ms Lane Fox, 30, announced last month that she would step down from her job as group managing director of lastminute by at the end of this year, although at the time she said she had no new role lined up. She has maintained that she cannot hope to repeat the success of lastminute with a new venture of her own. She will remain a non-executive director at the company.
It is understood that Ms Lane Fox, the darling of Britain's internet boom, is not being considered for the job of running Selfridges. Instead, her role could involve either overseeing a group of Mr Weston's holding company Wittington's operations, or managing one of its businesses. It is believed that discussions are continuing between Ms Lane Fox and Wittington.
The chief executive of Selfridges, Peter Williams, put together his own bid for the department store in competition with Wittington, and recently admitted he was "on trial", but his job appears safe for now.
One source said: "There will be no change in the management team at Selfridges."
The connection between Ms Lane Fox and Wittington was brokered by Allan Leighton, the famously well-connected chairman of lastminute. Mr Leighton sits on the board of a number of Mr Weston's companies, including Selfridges.
At the time she revealed her decision to quit lastminute, she told The Independent: "I don't have a definite plan yet. I don't think I'd do a start-up again. I think I've been phenomenally lucky with this one... That's enough internet, I think."
Mr Galen owns bakeries, food distribution businesses and supermarkets in Canada. In Dublin he owns the Brown Thomas department store. He is related to the Weston family behind Associated British Foods, but the two business empires are separate.
Ms Lane Fox started lastminute in 1998 with her friend Brent Hoberman. The company's successful flotation in March 2000 marked the beginning of the end of the City's love affair with the internet. The announcement of her departure, in November, coincided with lastminute's first profits.
She has denied there had been any bust-up or that she had come under pressure to quit. "I've always known I was going to have a finite time in the business. Why [quit] right now? Because we've got to full-year profitability which I've always had in my mind as an important milestone, and in equal significance, we've got exactly the right management team to take the business forward."
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