WH Smith changes expected

NIGEL COPE

WH Smith, the troubled high-street retailer which surprised the stock market with a profits warning in May, is expected to announce a further boardroom reshuffle on Wednesday when it announces its full-year results.

It is anticipated that WH Smith will prune its long list of non-executive directors and strengthen its executive committee, which is still heavily reliant on Sir Malcolm Field, its chief executive.

However, the City is unlikely to be satisfied if Sir Malcolm merely shuffles his pack rather than bringing in a heavyweight executive director from outside.

City analysts have been calling for an injection of new blood to shake up the company's cosy management style since the profits warning three months ago which focused on problems at the core WH Smith chain.

The company would not confirm details yesterday, but it is possible that two of the company's seven non-executive directors, Lord Windlesham and Janet Morgan, may step down. Lord Windlesham is principal of Brasenose College and has been on the Smith's board since 1986.

Ms Morgan joined the board in 1989 and is also a non-executive of Cable & Wireless and Midlands Electricity.

More recent arrivals, such as Martin Talyor, chief executive of Barclays Bank, and Marjorie Scardino, chief executive of the Economist group, are likely to stay on. Philip Smith, who is a direct descendant of the founding Smith family, will also remain.

The managing directors of the main operating businesses are tipped for promotion. These include Peter Bamford, at WH Smith, Alan Giles, at Waterstones, and Simon Burke, at Virgin/Our Price.

Since the profits warning in May, Peter Troughton, the head of UK retailing and the son of a former Smith's chairman, has left.

Earlier this month Dr Kevin Hawkins, the company's corporate affairs director, left to join Argyll, the Safeway supermarkets group.

The company's results are expected to show a fall in profits from pounds 124.8m to pounds 115m for the year to May.

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