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Alexon sacks top executives: Retailer to make emergency cash call

ALEXON Group, the troubled clothing retailer, took the unprecedented step of sacking its top three executive directors yesterday as a prelude to an emergency rights issue to stem its spiralling borrowings.

Bowing to pressure from angry institutional investors, Lawrence Snyder, executive chairman, and the joint chief operating officers, Ruth Henderson and Peter Ridsdale, resigned from the board. David Cohen, the finance chief, is the sole executive director to survive the purge.

John Sadler, a former deputy chairman of John Lewis Partnership, has been appointed non-executive chairman. John Osborn, a former Sears executive renowned for slashing costs at British Shoe Corporation, is the new chief executive. Patrick Cooper, formerly a director of the industrial conglomerate Goode Durrant, has joined as a non-executive director.

The departures are understood to have been the price necessary for institutional shareholders to support a cash-raising exercise, expected shortly to shore up the ravaged balance sheet.

An Alexon spokesman said: 'There was a loss of confidence in the senior management among some institutional investors.' The departing bosses would be compensated for loss of office, he said, but declined to say by how much. Mr Snyder's last published salary was about pounds 260,000.

The group, which operates stores under the Alexon, Dash and Eastex brands, breached its loan covenants last year before plunging to a loss of almost pounds 1m. Borrowings, which have been as high as pounds 29m, are currently at pounds 21m, giving gearing of 70 per cent.

Its biggest shareholders are Gartmore, Scottish Amicable, Friends Provident and Norwich Union. Mr Sadler is chairman of the UK board of Australian Mutual Provident and a trustee of the BT pension scheme.

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