LONDON — Harrods and Peter Bolliger, its former managing director, are having a public disagreement over whether the executive was fired or resigned.
The department store announced late last week that Bolliger, 49, had resigned “for personal reasons.” The Swiss executive, who was recruited from a South African footwear retailer, had been managing director of the store for 3 1/2 years. However, in an interview Sunday with The Mail, a London newspaper, Bolliger said he resigned because he could no longer put up with interference from Harrods chairman and co-owner Mohamed Al Fayed. Bolliger said the store’s 5,000-person staff needed to know whom to report to and Al Fayed’s interference caused confusion.
Harrods subsequently issued a statement saying Bolliger didn’t resign, but was fired. The store said its original announcement was a gesture of compassion.
Harrods said Bolliger was fired following an investigation into a $4.9 million modernization at a Harrods distribution center in West London. The store alleged Bolliger seriously mishandled the project.
Earlier, the firm sent Bolliger a warning letter because he had agreed to pay a senior staff member, Nick Whalley, a $32,780 severance package, despite Al Fayed’s instructions. Harrods said Whalley had secured his job by giving fake qualifications.
The letter about Whalley’s dismissal was given to Bolliger April 7. Bolliger resigned the following day, Harrods said.
Since Harrods employees must give three months notice when they resign, Bolliger reportedly was offered a job as managing director of Harrods’ Kurt Geiger footwear subsidiary for the three months. However, after discovering Bolliger allegedly had mishandled the modernization program, Harrods fired him on April 19, the store said.
Harrods officials did not amplify their statement on Monday and Bolliger could not be reached for comment.
The store said Clive de Boer, the former deputy managing director, has been named acting managing director.
Investigators from the Department of Trade and Industry, which was probing the Al Fayeds’ 1985 takeover of the store and its then-parent, House of Fraser PLC, said in their report that Mohamed Al Fayed’s management of the store “has been, to say the least, mercurial.”