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Darty Said to Consider Disposals as Chairman Exits Early

Darty Plc, the owner of France’s biggest consumer-electronics retailer, said its chairman will leave more than a month earlier than planned following talks with its largest investor Knight Vinke Asset Management LLC over the “unacceptable” performance of the business.

David Newlands will step down immediately and be replaced by Alan Parker, the former chief executive officer of Whitbread Plc who had been due to succeed him on Sept. 13, according to a joint statement today from Knight Vinke and Darty. Parker, 65, started a review of the business in June.

Knight Vinke, which owns a 25 percent stake, said it withdrew a resolution to have its founder Eric Knight appointed to Darty’s board at next month’s annual meeting. To placate the investor, Darty will consider selling underperforming assets and listing in Paris as part of the review by the new chairman, according to two people familiar with the matter.

“I am pleased we have agreed on many, if not most, of the steps that need to be taken in order to restore shareholder value,” Eric Knight, Knight Vinke’s chief executive officer, said in the statement. “I proposed a number of steps that could be taken to achieve this and Alan Parker has indicated that there is broad agreement on many of these items.”

Knight Vinke didn’t ask that Newlands step down now, said a Darty representative. The investor has voiced its frustration at the speed and scale of changes at the London-based retailer.

Profit Slump

A potential listing in France would be considered if market conditions improve, according to one of the people, who declined to be identified because the matter is private.

The disposal of Darty’s unprofitable developing markets unit will also be reviewed, the people said. The retailer, which was known as Kesa Electricals Plc until it sold the U.K. Comet chain in July, reported an increased loss at its developing division of Spain, Italy and Turkey in the last fiscal year.

Darty said in June that full-year profit slumped 42 percent and cut the dividend as difficult conditions across France, its largest market, weighed on sales of televisions.

Following the withdrawal of Knight Vinke’s resolution, Darty said it has agreed to appoint Eric Knight to the board immediately should the investor request it at any time from mid-December to September 2013.

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