Mothercare poaches Calver from Lovefilm

What does a baby retailer have in common with an online film rental company? Its taste in CEOs, by the looks of it...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 22 Nov 2012
A big announcement this morning by troubled baby retailer Mothercare, which has named Simon Calver, currently the head of Lovefilm, as its new CEO. Mothercare’s been on the hunt for a new chief exec since October, when Ben Gordon, who’d been in the post nine years, resigned after a profit warning led to share prices falling by more than a third. On the surface of it, Calver seems like an odd choice for the role: after all, Mothercare and Lovefilm bear all the similarities of chalk and cheese. But this could be indicative of exactly where the retailer’s board wants to take it…

A quick glance at Calver’s CV suggests he’s good at two things: branding and online. Having worked as a consultant on brands like Unilever, Pepsi and Dell, he then moved to video rental company Video Island, taking it through a merger with Lovefilm and then selling the business to Amazon in 2008. Calver’s experience at Lovefilm in particular suggests Mothercare has its sights set firmly on expanding and improving its online offering. Considering that’s the way the rest of the baby industry has been going for several years now, it hasn’t come a moment too soon…

But can he turn around Mothercare’s ailing high street business, too? And, more to the point, will they want him to? The group’s latest figures showed that it made a £4.4m loss in the six months to November, while sales over Christmas were down by 3%. The company has already announced that it’s planning to close more than 100 of its 350 UK stores over the next two years, while share prices have slipped by more than 60% over the past year. Although it may be that while Calver focuses on improving its online presence, chairman Alan Parker, the former CEO of Costa owner Whitbread, will put his emphasis on the bricks-and-mortar side of the business.

Calver isn’t the only notable person in the digital world to make a drastic move today: Roy Bostock, chairman of Yahoo, has decided to step down, taking three of the company’s directors with him. It’s Yahoo’s latest attempt to win back shareholder confidence after a series of leadership blunders, including co-founder Jerry Yang’s decision to quit as chairman last month, and CEO Carol Bartz’s anachronistic exit back in September.

In a letter to shareholders, Bostock said the move will help to ‘position Yahoo for future success’. A search for a new chairman will be led by current CEO, Scott Thompson. Although whether there’s anyone left in Silicon Valley willing to take on the challenge of turning around a company that’s in the middle of the longest and most public identity crisis on the web remains to be seen...

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