Swan plans big cull at WH Smith HQ

WH Smith is considering axing hundreds of head office jobs as part of a radical plan to reverse its fortunes.

A small team of executives led by chief executive Kate Swann is looking at ways of stripping costs out of the business. A well-placed source said the team, which includes John Warren, the finance director, and Simon Marinker, who runs the company's smaller stores, is considering "doing a Boots". The high street chemist this month announced 900 head office staff would be made redundant.

However, WH Smith has less scope than Boots for deep cuts as its head office team in London and Swindon is only 1,200-strong.

Ms Swann and her team have announced an internal freeze on new spending, and the number of external consultants has been reduced. A WH Smith spokeswoman said: "As part of the operational review there is a freeze on everything. Job cuts cannot be ruled out - the head office is where we are looking."

The news may not save the skin of the company chairman, Richard Handover, who is blamed for its lack of focus. At least two groups of institutional investors have raised the subject of his resignation with the WH Smith non-executive directors John Barton and Michael Orr.

The issue could flare up at the company's annual meeting on Thursday. The National Association of Pension Funds is advising members to vote against Ms Swann's pay package of a £475,000 salary plus£720,000 in cash and shares for simply staying at the retailer.

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