ASHLEY RETAIL CHIEF IS OUT, CHAIRMAN'S NEAR THE DOOR
Byline: James Fallon
LONDON--The management turmoil continues at Laura Ashley Holdings PLC, which has lost its head of retail operations and revealed the impending departure of its chairman. Stephen Cotter, who oversaw Laura Ashley's stores worldwide, resigned from the company on May 25 but will continue in his post until June 30. At that time he will be replaced by his deputy Andrew Stephenson. Cotter was appointed to the position only a year ago. He is leaving to become chief executive of Limelight Ltd., a home improvement company. Laura Ashley said Hugh Blakeway Webb, its executive chairman, also plans to leave his post as soon as the company finds a chief executive. Dr. Jim Maxmin, its last ceo, resigned in May 1994. A spokesman said Laura Ashley hopes to name a replacement shortly. Blakeway Webb, 46, a former barrister, has been heavily involved with the company since 1989, when it announced a debt reduction package. He also oversaw its recent restructuring, including a $56 million (35 million pound) program announced in February to close smaller stores in the U.S.; centralize operations in the company's headquarters in Maidenhead, England, and close its Australian stores. There had been reports that Sir Bernard Ashley, who controls nearly a third of Laura Ashley's shares, had been dissatisfied with Blakeway Webb's running of the company in the last few months. The company spokesman denied this, however.
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