WH Smith boss Kate Swann quits after strong decade
The chief executive of WH Smith, Kate Swann, yesterday disappointed investors by saying she will step down next year from the retail group after a decade at the helm.
Ms Swann will leave WH Smith at the end of June next year and will be replaced by Steve Clarke, the managing director of its 618-store high street business.
Despite unveiling WH Smith's eighth-consecutive year of profit growth and a leap in its dividend, shares in the group – whose travel division has 619 stores in train stations, airports and hospitals, as well as overseas – fell 21p, or 3 per cent, to 631p on the news of her departure.
Ms Swann has been feted as a darling of the City for turning around WH Smith's fortunes since she joined in 2003. The company completed a £50m share buy-back last year, which means it has returned £450m to shareholders since it spun off WH Smith's newspaper division into Smiths News in 2006.
WH Smith yesterday posted a 10 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to £102m over the year to 31 August and hiked its final dividend by 22 per cent to 18.6p. Its performance was helped by strong recent sales of books, notably from the "passion" genre of Fifty Shades of Grey.
On stepping down, Ms Swann said: "By the time I have gone, I will have done 10 years. I have complete confidence they will continue with the delivery of great shareholder value."
Ms Swann, who said she did not plan to retire after the leaving the FTSE 250-listed retailer, also joined the debate on women in the boardroom yesterday.
"There are only three FTSE 100 [female] chief executives. The data speaks for itself. It is not good. I am not surprised but it is a very low number," Ms Swann said, but she added: "I don't think I am in favour of quotas – that leads to not choosing the right person."
Fran Minogue, managing partner of the executive search firm Clarity, said Ms Swann has "shown that you can generate growth from a mature retail business".
She added: "Kate Swann shows there are superb female candidates out there and I am sure she will be in great demand."
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
iJobs Money & Business
$200 - $350 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Managing Producer Office...
$125 - $225 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advi...
Up to £70,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...
Up to £65,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...