Troubled Courts poaches marketing chief

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The Independent Online

Courts, the ailing furniture retailer that was handed a lifeline by its bankers last month, poached a marketing director from First Choice Holidays yesterday as it attempts to rebuild its reputation after a disastrous few months.

The company has also restructured its businesses and reshuffled its management team in a move aimed at returning to profitability after sinking to a £35m loss last year. The move prompted the resignation of Gary Tubb, its deputy managing director, after just two years with Courts.

It said Mike Ryan, First Choice's former marketing and operations director, would oversee the group's new marketing strategy. Until now, the company has relied on the charms of Bruce Forsyth, the ageing entertainer, to sell its sofas.

Courts, which was set up 150 years ago, said it would merge its upholstery and dining furniture businesses, charging Alec Saville-Brown with the task of reviving the division. Steve O'Dwyer will head its beds arm, while Peter Kelsey will run its floor coverings unit.

The company managed to secure £20m extra financing from its banks last month, quelling fears that it was facing a cash crunch. The agreement meant its auditors could sign off its full-year accounts. It also gave Leo McKee the full-time role of executive chairman. The move marked the completion of a boardroom shake-up that elbowed out the founding Cohen family, which still owns some 51 per cent of the shares.

Shareholders will get the opportunity to vent their anger at the company's botched strategy, which has resulted in the value of their investments collapsing by one-third, at the delayed annual meeting on 24 September. The shares slipped 1p yesterday to 96p.

Courts, which has more than 350 stores across the UK, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia, is pressing ahead with a strategic review that is expected to presage the break up of its overseas operations. It has said it intends to float its Caribbean businesses on a local stock exchange.

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