Can outside CEO shed M&S Rose-tinted view?

September 2, 2009

M&SMarks and Spencer should have one thing firmly at the top of its own shopping list — a new chief executive.
The British retailer has said for a while it wants to appoint a new chief executive to replace Sir Stuart Rose — who is both CEO and Chairman —  next year,  allowing Rose to step back to non-executive chairman before eventually standing down by July 2011.

That process seems finally to be getting underway, although it took a shareholder revolt over Sir Stuart’s role in July — which saw almost 38 percent of votes back a resolution to seek the appointment of an independent chairman by July 2010 — to shake the company’s rose-tinted view of the world.
The Financial Times is reporting that M&S is close to appointing headhunters to begin the search for a new CEO, increasing speculation that the job will go to an external candidate rather than one of the existing management team.
That would be good news for shareholders.  An outsider should find it easier than an internal hire to provide a balance for Rose.
Wrestling Sir Stuart’s dual role from him may prove to be the easy part, however. Getting him to give up the day-to-day running of the high street stores is likely to be an altogether tougher task.

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