Former Asda executive to be Matalan's new chief

The discount fashion retailer Matalan is poised to hire Darren Blackhurst, a former executive at Asda, as its new chief executive.

Matalan told its bondholders on1 April that it had agreed in principle contractual arrangements with Mr Blackhurst to be the 209-store retailer's chief executive.

The retailer has been trying to fill the role since Alistair McGeorge, the former chief executive, stepped down last September. Matalan declined to comment yesterday.

Mr Blackhurst is set to take over at Matalan on 9 May. For the former chief merchandising officer at Asda who left the grocer in May 2010, the role at Matalan would mark a sensational return to retail.

He had been a leading candidate for the top job at the Walmart-owned supermarket chain but left after Asda instead chose Andy Clarke to be its chief executive.

The appointment of Mr Blackhurst would be the latest changing of the guard at Matalan, which is 100 per cent owned by founder John Hargreaves and his family.

In December, Matalan said it had hired Adrian Mountford, the former head of general merchandise at Sainsbury's, as its commercial director.

Paul Gilbert, Matalan's finance director, has been its acting chief executive since Mr McGeorge left.

Matalan pulled a £1.5bn sale of the business in February 2010 after private equity firms baulked at the lofty price tag. In its most recent annual report, Matalan lifted underlying operating profit by 30 per cent to £132.9m for the year to 27 February 2010. More recently, the retailer suffered a 4.5 per cent fall in like-for-like sales for the 19 weeks to 8 January.

In a separate development in UK non-food retailing, Tesco has promoted Terry Price to lead its UK general merchandise operation. Mr Price joined Tesco in 2003 and has played a leading role in the development of the grocery giant's business in China.

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