M&S's New CEO Rowe Shakes Up Executive Suite to Fix Clothing

  • Rowe almost halves size of executive and operating committees
  • Laura Wade-Gery's duties assigned to Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne

Marks & Spencer Group Plc’s new Chief Executive Officer Steve Rowe stamped his authority just one month into the job by shrinking the retailer’s top management echelons in a bid to revive its struggling clothing business.

The executive committee has been shrunk to four people from six, a spokeswoman for London-based M&S said Thursday. The operating committee is cut to 11 from 20, with five directors leaving, including former international head Costas Antimissaris.

“The new operating committee will be working together to improve M&S, starting with fixing our clothing and home offer for our customers, our employees and our shareholders,” Rowe said in a statement. The “smaller, more focused team running M&S will lead to more efficient decision-making and move us closer to our customers.”

Rowe said soon after succeeding Marc Bolland as CEO last month that he’s dissatisfied with the company’s clothing sales, which have been mired in a four-year slump. His first major decision was to maintain oversight of that unit, and during that time has hired British fashionista Alexa Chung to create a new collection, cut prices on some lines and brought the company’s women’s wear, lingerie and beauty teams together into one group.

M&S shares rose 1.3 percent to 423.4 pence at 2:37 p.m. in London.

Changes unveiled by Rowe Thursday included handing out the responsibilities of Laura Wade-Gery, who is on maternity leave. Her duties as online head have been given to fellow executive director Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, who will also run the retailer’s customer and marketing functions. Wade-Gery’s responsibilities will be agreed upon closer to her scheduled return in September, the company spokeswoman said.

Chief Financial Officer Helen Weir will be in charge of strategy implementation, while M&S’s struggling international divisions will now report directly into Rowe.

The 11 remaining members of M&S’s operating committee are M&S’s four executive directors, along with seven other senior managers including the heads of the food and womenswear divisions.

“Steve Rowe has a good understanding of the problems the company faces," Jonathan Pritchard, an analyst at Peel Hunt, said by phone. “He has made a number of changes and this probably won’t be the last reorganization that we see from him.”

The new CEO has also made a small collection of clothing available to shoppers at the same time it’s unveiled to the fashion press, following a similar move by Burberry Group Plc. He’s scheduled to unveil M&S’s full-year results and outline his strategy for the business on May 25.

“By making the changes now, it will help Steve Rowe head off questions about personnel and leave him to focus on outlining the company’s strategy,” Sue Shipley, managing director of SVS Executive Search, said by phone.

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