Aug 20, 2010
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M&S to name Robert Swannell chairman

Aug 20, 2010

LONDON, Aug 20 (Reuters) - Marks & Spencer (MKS.L), Britain's biggest clothing retailer, is to name veteran investment banker and former HMV chairman Robert Swannell as Stuart Rose's successor as chairman, Sky News reported on Friday.

Robert Swannell. Photo : hmvgroup.com

It said Swannell -- former chairman of Citi's (C.N) European investment bank and vice-chairman of Citi Europe and the current chairman of music, books and games retailer HMV Group (HMV.L) -- would take up the role when Rose steps down next year.

M&S and HMV both declined to comment on the report.

Swannell was a long-term adviser of M&S during his time at Citi, helping the retailer see off a takeover attempt from billionaire entrepreneur Philip Green in 2004.

He is also a non-executive director at property group British Land (BLND.L) and venture capital firm 3i Group (III.L).

Rose, who has had a rocky relationship with institutional shareholders since he combined the roles of chairman and chief executive in 2008 against corporate governance guidelines, is due to leave M&S by the end of March 2011.

He was succeeded as CEO in May by Marc Bolland, the former boss of Wm Morrison Supermarkets (MRW.L).

Analysts said Swannell would be a good appointment for M&S.

"He's a well-respected City heavyweight, kind of what they need. Because it's M&S there's always a lot of focus on who the chairman is," said Nick Bubb, analyst at Arden Partners.

"If it is Robert Swannell it will be a bit more low key (than Rose)."

Bubb said the appointment of Alan Stewart as finance director this month was far more significant than the naming of a non-executive chairman.

M&S had a torrid recession, hit by competition from discount clothing chains like Primark (ABF.L), and has admitted it was too slow to adapt its upmarket food business to the more straitened economic times.

It has fought back of late, helped by new clothing ranges such as Indigo and cheaper "Wise Buys" in food. But many analysts think it needs to go further, and faster, in its plans to become a more streamlined and efficient business.

Bolland is due to detail his plans for M&S in November.

Shares in M&S were down 0.9 percent at 334.1 pence at 1229 GMT, broadly in line with the wider market, valuing the business at 5.34 billion pounds ($8.30 billion).

(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Michael Shields)

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