M&S and Bhs both poach senior executives

Lucy Baker
Saturday 16 September 2000 00:00

The beleaguered British High Street is set for a shake-up as heads of two of the country's top retailers prepare to take up new posts.

The beleaguered British High Street is set for a shake-up as heads of two of the country's top retailers prepare to take up new posts.

Roger Holmes, head of the electrical division at Kingfisher, the Woolworths to Curry's group, has been poached by Marks & Spencer. He is expected to be named as M&S's chief executive of UK retailing, in a move likely to lead to his appointment as chief executive in place of Peter Salsbury.

Meanwhile, Terry Green, who resigned from the department store group Debenhams on Wednesday, was yesterday confirmed as chief executive of Bhs.

Shares in Marks & Spencer, which fell to a 10-year low last month, closed down 5.75p at 210.25p on concerns about Mr Holmes' lack of experience in the clothing sector. Kingfisher closed down 19p at 446p.

But industry observers welcomed Mr Green's move to Bhs, the mid-market retailer which was acquired for £200m in March by the entrepreneur Philip Green. One analyst said: "It looks as though Bhs is not going to go down-market after all. Watch out M&S!"

Philip Green said: "[Terry Green's] appointment demonstrates our serious intent for Bhs to be a leading catalyst in the retail industry." He refused to be drawn on rumours that the two men were planning to stage a takeover of M&S, adding that he had "no idea" when Bhs would return to the market following its split from Storehouse group, since renamed Mothercare.

Philip Green abandoned his earlier intention to make an offer for M&S in February, claiming that the press had launched a campaign to blacken the bid. His move came shortly after it emerged that his wife, Cristina Green, had bought shares in the company before her husband disclosed he was considering a bid.

Terry Green will take up the Bhs job on 9 October. He said: "Timing is everything. Bhs has been snoozing and today represents one of the biggest challenges in retail."

Mr Holmes' appointment is expected to be confirmed by M&S next week. It is thought that Peter Salsbury will resign soon afterwards, clearing the way for Mr Holmes.

Matthew McEachran, an analyst at Investec Henderson Crosthwaite, said: "It is a concern that neither [Mr Holmes] nor Luc Vandevelde [M&S's Belgian chairman] is an expert in clothing." Mr Holmes, 38, joined Kingfisher in 1994 following a seven-year stint at McKinsey, the management consultancy. Mr McEachran suggested that his appointment at M&S could be a sign that the group is preparing to reposition itself by moving into new product areas, possibly including electrical goods.

Mr Holmes' decision to move to M&S was seen by the City as a substantial blow to Kingfisher. He had been widely regarded as the most likely successor to Sir Geoff Mulcahy, the company's chief executive.

Following Kingfisher's announcement earlier this week that it would split its general merchandise unit from the electricals and home improvements arm, it unveiled a management reshuffle. Martin Toogood, currently chief executive of B&Q UK, is to head the general merchandise company, while Jean-Noël Labroue, managing director of Darty, the French electrical retailer, will take on Mr Holmes' responsibilities.

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