HMV’s Swannell to Replace Stuart Rose as Marks Chair

Marks & Spencer's incoming exec chairman Robert Swannell
Swannell a 59-year-old investment banker who is non-executive chairman of HMV Group Plc, will join the retailer in October and become chairman on Jan. 4. Source: HMV Group Plc via Bloomberg

Robert Swannell, who helped defend Marks & Spencer Group Plc against billionaire Philip Green’s takeover bid six years ago, will replace Stuart Rose as chairman of the U.K.’s largest clothing retailer.

Swannell, a 59-year-old investment banker who is chairman of HMV Group Plc, will join the board in October and become non-executive chairman on Jan. 4, when Rose will leave, the London- based company said today. Swannell will receive a salary of 450,000 pounds ($700,000), spokeswoman Clair Foster said, almost half the 875,000 pounds Rose is being paid as executive chairman. He won’t be eligible for a bonus or share options.

The appointment is the latest change to Marks & Spencer’s top management after Marc Bolland joined as chief executive officer in May and Alan Stewart was appointed chief financial officer. Bolland, who has spent his first months in the job meeting suppliers abroad and visiting stores, plans to present a strategic review of the business in November.

“Swannell is what M&S needs, a respected City heavyweight who can do the chairman stuff and let Bolland get on with running things,” Nick Bubb, an analyst at Arden Partners Plc in London, said by phone. Swannell “knows retailing because he used to advise the industry, so we should think of this as a City banker becomes a non-executive chairman.”

Shares Gain

Swannell is the former vice chairman of Citigroup Europe, where he advised Rose in the fight against Green. Rose, who rejoined Marks in 2004 after beginning his career there as a trainee, had been scheduled to leave in March. He faced criticism from investors during his tenure for combining the roles of CEO and chairman.

Marks shares rose 3.9 pence, or 1.2 percent, to 336.6 pence in London trading today. The gain trimmed the stock’s decline this year to 16 percent.

Prior to Swannell’s position at Citigroup, he worked at Schroders Plc. The executive today announced plans to resign as a non-executive director of British Land Co., the U.K.’s second-largest real estate investment trust, and from the board of 3i Group Plc, Europe’s largest publicly traded private-equity firm.

Sky News reported that Swannell will stay on as chairman of HMV. HMV spokesman Gennaro Castaldo declined to comment.

Rose’s Career

HMV, whose share price has slumped 37 percent this year, is seeking to overcome competition from internet retailers and Apple Inc.’s iTunes by adding new product categories such as live music and ticketing. The FTSE 350 General Retailers Index has fallen 13 percent this year.

“Why would he vaguely be considered as chairman of Marks & Spencer with that record at HMV?” Tony Shiret, an analyst at Credit Suisse, said by phone in London.

Rose started his retailing career as a Marks & Spencer trainee in 1971, leaving in 1989 to run the home-furnishings division of Debenhams department stores. He later became CEO of fashion retailer Arcadia Group and food wholesaler Booker Group Plc, before his return to Marks & Spencer.

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