Credit: Asos

Nick Robertson's departure from Asos is no surprise

The entrepreneur has built a massive fashion brand but we all have to move on at some point.

by Jack Torrance
Last Updated: 03 Sep 2015

There comes a point in almost every successful entrepreneur's life when they need to stand aside. The skills required to build up a business and float it on the stock exchange aren't the same as those you need to run a multinational corporation.

Sometimes the exit excited investors who are hungry for new blood, but the loss of a founder's passion and ideas can also be very damaging. It seems the backers of Asos, whose founder Nick Robertson stepped down as chief executive today, can't make up their mind. The fashion brand's share price, already well below its peak, was down 5.8% to 2,820p when the markets opened, but bounced back to more than 2% up in the mid-morning.

Robertson founded Asos fifteen years ago (when it was known as AsSeenOnScreen) and has since built it into a company with revenues of almost £1bn last year. He still holds an 8.4% stake in the business and for the time being will stay on the board as a non-executive director. 

'On behalf of everyone who works at ASOS, I'd like to acknowledge Nick Robertson's extraordinary achievement,' said chairman Brian McBride. 'His passion and vision have built a start-up into a world class company.'

But his exit looks like it has been in the making for a while. His successor Nick Beighton had been CFO since 2009 but was bumped across to COO in October – suggesting he was being trained up in the less numerical aspects of the business before being handed the top job.

The departure also follows a difficult 18 months for the company. After shares hit an all-time high of 7,050p in March 2014 the business had to announce three profit warnings in the course of six months. A fire at its Barnsley warehouse in June that destroyed £22m worth of stock didn't exactly help and by October its shares had slipped to 1,785, their lowest level since Spring 2012.

Things have bounced back a little since then but it hasn't been plain sailing. Though domestic sales and profits recovered it has struggled to expand quickly into international markets – partly thanks to the strength of the pound.

Whether he jumped or was pushed, Robertson's departure shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody, including himself, but giving up your creation is never easy. Still, with the massive pile of cash he has presumably built, don't be surprised to see him come along with a fresh idea some time soon.  

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