M&S confirms City veteran Swannell as new chairman

Ex-banker Robert Swannell will be taking the chair at Marks & Spencer, as Sir Stuart Rose bows out...

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Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

After months of fevered speculation, Marks and Spencer has finally confirmed the identity of its incoming chairman: ex-investment banker Robert Swannell, currently chairman of music retailer HMV. The new recruit will replace Stuart Rose, who relinquished his role as CEO to Marc Bolland earlier this year. Considering Rose’s reputation, it looks like Swannell will have some big shoes (or should that be socks?) to fill…
 
Swannell has worked with M&S before – in 2004, he was part of the team which helped defend the company against a hostile takeover threat by Topshop owner (and new government efficiency adviser) Philip Green.

Commenators have already come out to say Swannell is an obvious choice – ‘he knows his way around M&S, retail and the City’, said retail analyst Neil Saunders. And given the rumours and scuttlebutt that have been flying around over exactly when Rose would finally step down and who would be taking his place, investors are doubtless relieved to have some definite news at last.

The inevitable huffing and puffing over Swannell’s new salary has already begun – apparently, he will be paid £500,000 for the privilege of presiding over the M&S board, which is actually a pretty meagre stipend in the rarefied world of such high-profile appointments. It’s 40% less than the £875,000 Rose gets for the same job, for starters, and is positively dwarfed by other FTSE 100 chairmen. Standard Chartered’s John Peace, for example, was paid £1.1m last year.
 
Swannell will join the M&S board in October before taking over as chairman in January 2011. It’s a long goodbye from Rose, who first announced his exit from the company in 2009, and stepped down as CEO in April. Still, despite the occasional boardroom tussle (not to mention his decision to take on the roles of both chairman and chief executive, which made for some dramatic AGMs) during his reign, Rose was generally popular with shareholders – Swannell may well have his work cut out if he wants to rival that one.
 
Some friendly advice: he could make a worse start than by keeping a close eye on the quality of the underwear. After all, we don’t want another Jeremy Paxman fiasco on our hands…

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