Feb 23, 2021
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Clarks CEO and other execs are out, ex-Guess chief steps up for now

Feb 23, 2021

Clarks’ CEO Giorgio Presca has exited the historic shoe firm. The departure comes only a few months after it brought a new majority owner on board as the founding family relinquished control for the first time in several centuries. 

Clarks' CEO has exited the firm - Photo: Sandra Halliday

Reports said the company has also lost other members of the leadership team, including chief commercial officer Massimo Barzaghi and chief people officer Difna Blamey, although the latter had been on a temporary contract.

Since the trio left last week, Victor Herrero has stepped up to combine the executive chairman and chief executive roles for now. The former Guess CEO has been a non-executive director at the firm.

Hong Kong-based private equity firm LionRock Capital is now majority owner of the company after acquiring a stake in late 2020. Its arrival followed a bruising period for the firm in which it had been struggling, even before the pandemic forced all of its shops to shut temporarily.

LionRock is now hunting for a new leadership team, and any incoming execs will face a massive challenge after a year in which the pandemic has changed UK (and international) retail forever.

The biggest question is what to do about its stores. Clarks launched a CVA last year that was approved by 90% of its creditors. Workers in its stores were placed in in consultation as a result, although the company said it remained committed to the store estate. It’s unclear whether the new owner and temporary CEO think differently.

The latest results that have been released by the firm cover the year to February 1 2020 and its revenue fell 6.4% in that period as trade was tough in the UK, Ireland, Europe and the US. But while profits rose, it said at the time that the store estate was a major drag on the company.

Its latest financial year has ended, but the results from it are unlikely to be due for some months. However, given the pandemic and the CVA, it’s a fairly safe bet that sales will have plummeted. Footwear has been a tough category to sell during lockdowns.

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