Outlook: Dream team?

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The Independent Online
STUART ROSE has been linked with more top jobs over the last year than Will Carling has had blond haired women. That's no mean feat, assuming the former England rugby captain's record is more than just fantasy. Many of Mr Rose's supposed dalliances were probably imagined too, but finally, and after several false starts, he seems to have scored.

It was little more than a year ago that the forthright Yorkshireman was seen as the front-runner to take the helm at WH Smith, having lost out to Terry Green in the battle to run Debenhams. The Smith's job went to Richard Handover and Mr Rose remained on the jobs market. Then along came the GUS bid for Argos. Mr Rose was parachuted in with a golden hello that guaranteed him pounds 540,000 even if he lost the bid. This he duly did, albeit after a spirited defence. Since then, he's been cited as a front runner for virtually every chief executive's post going. After all that it might have been thought he'd do rather better than Booker, a byword for corporate awfulness.

Still, Mr Rose gets an Argos style remuneration package which says he will receive a full pounds 400,000 year's pay even if Booker falls to a takeover bid at any time in the first 12 months. Then, of course, there are the share options pitched at a price that ought to prove a historic low.

For Mr Rose, this seems a case of heads he wins, tails he wins. If he fails, he'll be able to say Booker was beyond saving. If he succeeds, he will be hailed as a corporate hero. Mr Rose did a good job defending Argos and he is seen in the City as a good appointment.

Certainly he stands a reasonable chance of success. Booker is a business that has pounds 5bn of sales but makes operating returns of a paltry two per cent. The previous management has pumped millions into improving the distribution and warehousing systems. That investment may be on the brink of paying off. Even so, it is worth noting what a terrible old merry go round the higher echelons of British corporate life have become. Whenever there's a top job in the offing, the same old names get trotted out, and generally one of them gets it. Where's the new talent, where's the young blood capable of offering a genuinely fresh approach? Let's hope that Booker's "dream team" of Mr Rose and John Napier proves equal to the task.