Mr Poole, who had been with the group for 19 years, left because of a clash of management styles, according to the company. Nigel Hall, finance director, said the group needed to consolidate recent business developments and this required teamwork.
During the year the group expanded into office business supplies, opened two Cargo Club membership shopping warehouses, and made the first acquisition in its 184-year history, the M6 cash-and- carry chain.
N&P stressed there was no boardroom rift on strategy. But Mr Hall said: 'There are different styles of management suitable to different business occasions. Perhaps (Mr Poole's) style was not entirely suitable to this one.'
One industry source commented: 'David Poole has huge energy and drive. But he is a forceful, upfront operator who likes a very hands-on approach. The board probably thought N&P was now too big an organisation for this one- man approach.'
Mr Poole, 51, was on a three-year rolling contract worth a basic pounds 159,000 a year, and earned bonuses of pounds 73,000 last year. Negotiations on compensation are continuing.
Richard Fulford, chairman, said Tony Hopkins, the trading director, would chair the executive committee until Mr Poole's successor was found.Reuse content