Unease as Oates bids for top spot at M&S

INSTITUTIONAL INVESTORS in Marks & Spencer said yesterday that Keith Oates, the group's deputy chairman, was playing a "high risk game" by lobbying the retailer's non-executive directors for the top job.

One senior fund manager said: "Keith Oates has not so much thrown his hat into the ring as lobbed a pound of Semtex into it."

Mr Oates made his move to establish himself as the logical successor to current chairman, Sir Richard Greenbury, last week after non-executives balked at Sir Richard's apparent attempts to position Peter Salsbury, the managing director in charge of general merchandise, as his successor. M&S insiders say there is "despair" over the way the succession is being handled.

Though Mr Salsbury may be Sir Richard's choice, it is understood that Mr Oates also has his supporters on the board. Some insiders also say that Chris Littmoden, who has been instrumental in turning round the Brooks Brothers operation in the United States, is not out of the running.

Institutions are concerned that Sir Richard, who is known as the dominant figure on the M&S board, is using that position to try to manoeuvre his man into place. "Greenbury shouldn't win just because of the force of his personality but because he has good enough arguments to support his case," one investor said.

The fund manager criticised M&S for not sorting out its structure earlier. "If they had had a non-executive, independent chairman, this would not have happened."

Analysts said the in-fighting only served to underline the problems of the company, which reported a 23 per cent fall in profits last week. One said:

"They look like a rabble. If any of the candidates were any good they wouldn't need to be doing this. It reduces my confidence in the lot of them."

M&S was still clinging to its original timetable yesterday saying it hoped to clarify the succession issue in the spring, but the pressure is mounting for a much earlier decision.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Administration Team Leader

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company prides itself on its ability to p...

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company prides itself on its ability to p...

Ashdown Group: Solvency II Project Manager - 10 month contract - £800 p/d

£800 per day: Ashdown Group: A highly successful, global financial services co...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250...

Day In a Page

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works