'We must take this group that's not bust and tell people it's fantastic'

Jason Nissé meets the new masters of Marks & Spencer as they prepare to put right past mistakes and face up to Philip Green
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Paul Myners cracks a wry smile. "We initiated contact with Stuart [Rose] before the Philip Green approach," he says. "Only very slightly before."

Paul Myners cracks a wry smile. "We initiated contact with Stuart [Rose] before the Philip Green approach," he says. "Only very slightly before."

The new chairman of Marks & Spencer admits he is rather surprised to find himself in this job. Only 10 days ago he was merely a non-executive director of the company, with Luc Vandevelde as chairman and Roger Holmes as chief executive. Mr Vandevelde had already signalled he was resigning and M&S was hunting for a chairman when Mr Green admitted he was planning to make a bid.

M&S was galvanised into action. On Monday it announced what this newspaper revealed last Sunday - that both Mr Vandevelde and Mr Holmes were to go. Mr Myners became temporary replacement as chairman and Mr Rose, the highly regarded former boss of Arcadia who ironically was put out of a job because of a previous takeover by Mr Green, became chief executive.

Mr Myners explains that there was no single catalyst for hiring Mr Rose. "We were looking for a chairman and gradually it became apparent we should be looking for a chief executive."

He says there was no big row with Mr Holmes. "It's not an issue of strategic direction. It's to do with prioritisation, focus and speed of delivery."

And to show he had all of those three, Mr Rose immediately shook up the management with two senior appointments - one in supply management, the other in marketing. "Well, I have had 18 months to think about it," says the new chief executive, referring to his extended gardening leave since being ousted as chief executive of Arcadia, the Top Shop to Burtons group, by Mr Green.

If hiring Mr Rose was an attempt to put a spoke in the wheels of the flamboyant Mr Green's Bentley, it certainly worked. Suddenly the City was saying "stick with Marks". When Mr Green announced his conditional bid on Thursday, which valued M&S at anything from £7.5bn to £9bn depending on your calculations, it received a massive thumbs-down. Mr Green says he's now "having a think" about his next move.

Mr Rose isn't having a think, though. He's getting down to business. "We've got to take this business that's not bust and remind people that it's a fantastic business that sells fantastic clothes that are fantastic value," he says. "We've forgotten how to be shopkeepers. We got involved in a whole lot of things, some of which don't add up to a row of beans."

He hasn't made any changes yet - but then as, Mr Rose points out, he's only been in the job four working days, and most of that has been spent dealing with Mr Green's bid approach. What he has announced is a review - of everything. Suppliers, brands, merchandising, property and management. "I've got to be sure I've got the right people in the right places," he says. "If I need new talent, I'll bring them in. If I need to move people to make them more effective, I will. And if some people are excess to what we need, then they may have to leave."

He won't go into specifics, but most analysts believe that Vittorio Radice, the former Selfridges boss who recently added clothing to his homewares portfolio, and Maurice Helfgott, the 36-year-old promoted from menswear to take over the food side, should be the most worried.

Mr Myners backs Mr Rose up. "Clearly, Stuart is going to select his team," he says. "We have strong individuals in place but he may select strong candidates in their place."

Mr Rose is also going to take a long, hard look at all the different brands which M&S is now using - including David Beckham's 07 range, View From, Blue Harbour and Per Una.

It emerged last week that Per Una was owned by its founder, the former Next boss George Davies. Mr Green has made much of this, claiming that it cast a shadow over the hundreds of millions of sales that Per Una generates. He says it is a condition of his bid that M&S discloses its contract with Mr Davies.

M&S has refused. "It's commercially sensitive," argues Mr Myners. "Philip's just pissed off because we stuffed his lawyers," says Mr Rose, referring to the injunction M&S obtained to stop City firm Freshfield Bruckhaus Deringer working for Mr Green.

Mr Myners, who is being paid no extra for being chairman, will stand down as soon as a new chair is found. Meanwhile, insiders at M&S have noted that he spent more time at the Baker Street headquarters last week than his predecessor did all year.

Mr Rose, though, is in it for the long hall. This weekend he will take on one of his more pleasurable tasks.

"M&S has some very good wines. I'm looking forward to tasting a glass or two."