M&S puts an end to succession saga

MARKS & Spencer yesterday ended months of speculation over its succession plans as it named City banker Robert Swannell as its next chairman.

RETAIL giant Marks & Spencer today put an end to months of speculation by naming a City banker as its next chairman.

Robert Swannell will join the M&S board in October succeed current chairman Sir Stuart Rose on January 4.

Mr Swannell, who will also coninue in his role as chairman of music and books retail group HMV, was a lead adviser to M&S during its defence against a takeover bid by retail entrepreneur Sir Philip Green in 2004.

Sir Stuart, who has a home in Suffolk, was brought in by M&S as chief executive to fight the bid, and he requested that Mr Swannell should act for the group.

Sir Stuart said today he was “delighted” at the identify of his successor as chairman.

“His considerable experience of both the City and the commercial world will be a real asset to the board and the business,” he added.

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Sir Stuart later combined the roles of chief executive and chairman, a situation contrary to best practice which was unpopular with the group’s major shareholders.

Sir Stuart stood down as chief executive earlier this year following the appointment to the job of Marc Bolland, formerly chief executive at supermarket group Morrisons.

The appointment of Mr Swannell, with a 35-year track record in the City, could help to mend relations further, although he may find it harder to match the popularity achieved by Sir Stuart among the ranks of the group’s army of small shareholders.

Mr Swannell said today: “It is a privilege to be asked to chair one of the world’s greatest brands.”