View from City Road: Senseless silence at Storehouse

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The Independent Online
STOREHOUSE has some explaining to do. After a day of speculation in the City that sent the shares 11p lower to 194p it was left to Carter Hawley Hale, the US department store chain now in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, to announce that David Dworkin, who has been chief executive of Storehouse since July, is joining as president and chief executive from 1 April. Storehouse had steadfastly refused to comment on the rumours, thereby prolonging the uncertainty and shaking investors' confidence.

Despite his brief tenure, Mr Dworkin could be forgiven for thinking this is a good time to go. His work at the core BhS chain, which he headed for three years before taking the top job, is bearing fruit - in the six months to October, it made pounds 10.5m profit compared with a pounds 7m loss in the previous period. Mothercare is now profitable. Peripheral businesses, such as Richards, Heals and the European Habitat chain, have been sold.

While there is more growth to come, it is likely to be rather more pedestrian. And Mr Dworkin - who once wrote: 'In the face of a life dedicated to achievement 'Is that all there is?' ' - may feel he needs a new challenge, such as revitalising a bankrupt chain.

Shareholders deserve better. Since Sir Terence Conran left, the group may have benefited from professional management but it has suffered far too many changes at the top - Michael Julien, Mr Dworkin's predecessor, lasted only four years, while David Simons, the finance director, is leaving next month after just two years in the job.

Shareholders must hope for someone who is prepared to stay longer next time.