LONDON — In a year of radical change for Marks and Spencer, which began with the resignation of chief executive officer Marc Bolland, the company has announced that its chairman Robert Swannell plans to retire.
After serving six years as chairman, Swannell will step down next year. The company said senior independent director Vindi Banga will lead the process to identify and appoint the next chairman, while Swannell will continue in his role until the process is complete.
“A year ago, we chose Steve Rowe as our chief executive. Steve completed a thorough analysis of the business and developed a detailed plan to build a simpler and more relevant M&S,” said Swannell. “This plan is now under way and I feel that it is the right time for the business to look for a new chairman. It is a real privilege to chair this iconic company and I will continue to do so until my successor is in place.”
Marks and Spencer announced on Jan. 7 that Bolland would step down as ceo and be replaced by Rowe. Since Rowe took up the job earlier this year, he’s made sweeping cuts to management and attempted to streamline the struggling company’s operations.
In November, Rowe announced plans to downsize M&S’s struggling clothing business and ramp up expansion of its Simply Food format. M&S will also pull out of major international markets, including France, where it will shutter the Champs-Elysées flagship that opened in 2011, and China, where it plans to shut 10 stores.
The changes came as first-half profits fell to 15.9 million pounds, or $21.8 million, due to lower clothing and home sales (they declined 5.3 percent in the half) and a “significant charge” relating to pension changes. Sales edged up 0.9 percent to 4.99 billion pounds, or $6.84 billion.
The latest round of closures will cost 150 million to 200 million pounds, or $186 million to $250 million, over the next 12 months, eliminating annual losses of 45 million pounds, or $56 million.
Swannell took up his role as chairman in 2011, replacing Sir Stuart Rose, who left the company. For a period, Rose had served simultaneously as ceo and chairman.
Swannell’s background is in investment banking. He spent 30 years with Schroders and Citigroup, and served as vice chairman of Citi Europe and as co-chairman of Citi’s European investment bank.
Before joining M&S, he served as chairman of HMV Group and is a senior independent director of The British Land Co. and a senior independent non-executive director of 3i Group, the private equity firm.