Business

Marks and Spencer names Archie Norman as new chairman

Archie Norman Image copyright REX/Shutterstock

Retail veteran and former Conservative MP Archie Norman has been named Marks and Spencer's new chairman.

Mr Norman, who built his reputation as boss of Asda, will replace Robert Swannell, who joined M&S in 2010.

The announcement comes days after M&S hired the boss of Halfords, Jill McDonald, to take charge of its clothing, home and beauty business.

Mr Norman, former executive at retailer Kingfisher, stood down as ITV chairman last year.

He joins M&S as chief executive Steve Rowe continues the fight to improve flagging clothing sales, and revamp product ranges and prices, while attempting to create a leaner and more focused business.

Mr Rowe has already announced a big expansion of the M&S food operation.

Mr Norman said: "I am looking forward to taking on the role of the chairmanship of Marks & Spencer as the business under Steve Rowe's leadership faces into the considerable challenges ahead in a rapidly changing retail landscape."

Retail analyst Nick Bubb said: "Some people thought that Archie was too heavyweight for the role, which is non-executive, and it remains to be seen how much of 'a back-seat driver' he is to CEO Steve Rowe.

"When he took over at the struggling Asda in 1991 he famously played down expectations of the turnaround and we see he is up to his old tricks again in today's statement."

Mr Norman has held a number of high ranking positions, including:

  • Group finance director at Kingfisher: 1986-1991
  • Chief executive, then chairman of Asda: 1991-2000
  • MP for Tunbridge Wells: 1997-2005
  • Chairman of Energis: 2002-2006
  • Chairman, founder and partner of Aurigo Management Partners: 2006-2012
  • Chairman of ITV: 2010-2016

He has also served as chairman of Lazard London and Hobbycraft.

Reputation

In a statement, Mr Swannell said: "I am delighted that Archie, with his deep, relevant experience is to be M&S's next chairman.

"It has been a real privilege to have served as chairman and to have worked with so many exceptional people who are so passionate about this great business.

"With the appointment of Steve Rowe in 2016, I am confident that we have an excellent team, well-equipped to grow and strengthen the business. I wish them all the very best for the future."

Mr Norman has a reputation for turning around businesses. He is most famously credited with transforming Asda, which was ailing at the beginning of the 1990s but was sold for £6.5bn to Wal-Mart in 1999.

In interviews he admitted that it meant tough decisions, such as salary freezes and thousands of redundancies.

Last year, he was appointed lead non-executive director at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Investors reacted positively to Mr Norman's appointment, sending shares in the retailer up more than 5%.

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