UK: KING RICHARD - A TRAGEDY IN THREE ACTS.

UK: KING RICHARD - A TRAGEDY IN THREE ACTS. - KING RICHARD - A TRAGEDY IN THREE ACTS - Sir Richard Greenbury had brought Marks & Spencer through a glorious decade before the balloon burst. Then suddenly it was time to pass the torch. Matthew Gwyther

by MATTHEW GWYTHER.
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

KING RICHARD - A TRAGEDY IN THREE ACTS - Sir Richard Greenbury had brought Marks & Spencer through a glorious decade before the balloon burst. Then suddenly it was time to pass the torch. Matthew Gwyther assesses his legacy.

ACT 1 - BAD TIDINGS.

It was 8.30 on a cheerless November morning in London when the four arrived. The former chief of MI5 and three senior figures from the British business establishment entered a flat in the matrix of streets between Oxford Street and Marylebone Road and made themselves as comfortable as they could in the circumstances.

The visitors were Dame Stella Rimington, who had retired as head of the nation's Security Service in 1996, Prudential chairman Sir Martin Jacomb, Brian Baldock, the Guinness veteran, and Sir Michael Perry, who had 39 years of service at Unilever under his belt. They had come to see Sir Richard Greenbury, the all-powerful head of Marks & Spencer, who for a decade had run Britain's largest retailer with a rod of iron. The four were all non-executive directors of M&S, and they hadn't come to preview the women's spring collection or to taste the latest triple-whipped, luxury gooseberry fool. They knew M&S faced an unprecedented crisis, just as Greenbury was into the final straight of a glorious half-century run. His reign appeared to be coming to an ignoble end.

The previous Tuesday, 3 November, M&S had announced its worst figures for years. Unthinkably, profits for the first half of the financial year were down by almost a quarter. That was bad enough. But it was not the reason for the morning gathering at Greenbury's flat. No, the non-execs had been summoned because the issue of who should take over from Greenbury as the head of Britain's most loved company had suddenly come into very public and ugly dispute. Sir Rick faced an outbreak of dissent in the ranks - and at the highest level.

Like the pre-Diana monarchy, M&S is not used to dealing with public criticism.

For decades, it has basked in the admiration of its retailing peers, the approval of a largely contented City, the loyalty of its customers and the steadfastness of its legendary staff. M&S is no Ratner-style operation with its dramas all over the tabloids. To have its boardroom animosities laid bare, for the world to gawp at, was, until last November, unthinkable.

The six days leading up to the breakfast meeting had been traumatic.

On the Tuesday when M&S published its lamentable interims, the share price lost 10% in a single trading session.

The following day's newspapers had carried acidic pieces by fashion writers saying the grande dame of British retailing had lost its touch - that its dreary ranges were being bettered by high-street rivals. Two days after the results had been published, a story in the Financial Times said Greenbury would give up the chief executive part of his combined chairmanship within six months, far earlier than expected. Much more significantly, it named Peter Salsbury, one of the four M&S joint managing directors, as the man most likely to take the newly separated job of chief executive.

In the Baker Street head offices of M&S, the press report was discreetly photocopied and distributed among colleagues like samizdat literature. Some already believed Salsbury was likely to take over the reins from Greenbury, but for an organisation so obsessed with secrecy, the shock was that the press report had appeared at all. Traditionally the issue of succession at M&S had always proceeded in the same arcane and utterly leakproof way as in the pre-glasnost Soviet Union.

One individual was more than shocked. Keith Oates had joined M&S in 1984 as finance director, having built a career with a string of blue-chip companies. Ten years later he had been made deputy chairman and was presented as Greenbury's natural successor. Relations between them had cooled dramatically over the last 18 months, but Oates still had his eye on the top job.

Oates, a lean, rangy man who combines a gentle smile with melancholy eyes, is normally placid to the point of appearing lugubrious, but the newspaper report had infuriated him. He suspected Greenbury had planted the story in an attempt to prepare the way for a handover to Salsbury.

His anger was initially directed at Brian Baldock, the non-executive, and Brian Hudspith, in charge of corporate communications. Oates challenged Baldock, accusing him of being in cahoots with Greenbury over the succession.

He later warned Hudspith that his job was to represent M&S as a whole to the outside world, not to speak for any one faction on the board. Hudspith flatly denied having leaked anything.

Oates faced a dilemma. He could keep his head down and wait for the formal process of choosing a chief executive to get under way. But his main rival was already out of the traps and round the first bend, and with Greenbury urging Salsbury on, it meant Oates had to act quickly if he was to have any serious chance of being considered for the top job.

Crucially, Oates realised there was no chance of making a pitch without alienating Greenbury. In any case, Greenbury had already said that no bean-counter would ever run M&S. That had hurt Oates, an accountant by background. Oates now accepted he would never get Greenbury's backing.

His only option was face up to his boss, even if that risked a bust-up.

ACT 2 - THE SCRAMBLE.

By Thursday afternoon, Oates had his counter-attack ready, in the form of a letter to the M&S non-executive directors. It said that if they were to start looking ahead to who would take over the day-to-day running of the group when Greenbury ceded his executive responsibilities, then Oates would like to be considered. By M&S standards, Oates, with a mere 14 years of service, was a new kid on the Baker Street block. (Coming in as an outsider, it had taken 35 interviews before he was given a job.) They like long-term loyalty at M&S - and Salsbury had joined as a trainee in 1970, fresh out of the London School of Economics.

Oates' contribution had nevertheless been considerable. In particular, he was credited with being the force behind the hugely successful move by M&S into financial services. (It now has more than £1 billion worth of funds.) His calm, urbane manner had gone down well with City investors, and some saw the very fact that he previously worked outside M&S as an advantage; it gave him some detachment and objectivity in assessing what had to be done to turn M&S round.

Oates' letter was polished and dispatched. And he made sure a copy was sent to Greenbury; he wanted to make it clear he would not let the appointment of his rival go unchallenged. He was in the running. The copy of the Oates letter duly arrived in Greenbury's office, but it landed on the chairman's desk two hours after he had left the building, heading off to India for a trip combining a holiday and a number of meetings with suppliers. The big man flew out of Heathrow for Madras, unaware of the time bomb left ticking at St Michael House.

Throughout Friday, there was an uneasy quiet. By Saturday afternoon, however, Baldock and other non-executives knew that the Sunday Times and The Observer were going to publish news of Oates' bid for the chief executive's job. In less than 72 hours, M&S, historically watertight in the face of enquiries by both investors and journalists, had started to leak like a sieve. Baldock telephoned Greenbury at the five-star Chola Sheraton and warned him that the balloon was about to go up.

Once Baldock had seen early editions of the Sunday papers, he knew M&S faced a full-blown crisis. The Observer carried an eight-column headline which left readers in no doubt: 'War of succession splits M&S.' Inside the paper was a page of analysis under the heading: 'Civil war on Baker Street.'

Baldock telephoned Greenbury again. They agreed the chairman had to fly back to London; he arrived at 5.30 the following morning at Heathrow, wearing a T-shirt and slacks. His two-week visit to India had lasted three days. Three hours after touching down he was at his flat off Baker Street, meeting the hastily summoned non-executives.

The mood of their impromptu meeting was, according to one participant, 'unemotional and businesslike', but the feeling of shock beneath the surface was palpable. It was agreed that the weekly gathering of the company's executives should be turned into a full-blown board meeting, despite a few of them being abroad. Another non-executive, Rolls-Royce chairman Sir Ralph Robins, had arrived at Baker Street by now, summoned back to Britain by Baldock to help steady the ship.

And so, at 10.30 on the morning of Monday, 9 November, most of the M&S directors sat down at the boardroom table. Among them were Oates, Salsbury and, of course, Greenbury, incandescent with rage that Oates had dared to go over his head in lobbying the non-execs. 'It was extremely tense,' says one of the participants. 'People who were there talked about it afterwards and most said there was a sort of sick feeling in the stomach.'

The full board meeting lasted 15 minutes. Jacomb proposed setting up a nominations committee to choose a chief executive. That was agreed and Jacomb asked Baldock to take charge of the process. With the formalities over, the executives were left to get on with a normal Monday morning meeting. By midday, they had finished - and by now the world was watching and enjoying the wretched spectacle. The Sunday Times reported one analyst as irreverently commenting: 'The whole bunch are a shower. Greenbury looks panicked, Salsbury is a wet blanket and Oates has blown it. I reckon they should give Rick a couple of Valium and keep him in charge until they can find a good external candidate.'

Over the following 11 days, Baldock and his non-executive colleagues met the operational directors one by one. Most were given an hour to proffer their views on what should happen next; some were interviewed a second time; one had a third session. Was it right to bring forward the splitting of the chairman and chief executive's role? (The principle of dividing Greenbury's job had already been agreed in broad outline.) What about bringing in a non-executive chairman from outside? And would Oates or Salsbury be the better choice to take over as chief executive?

By 20 November, every M&S director had been interviewed. A full board meeting was already scheduled for the afternoon of the 25th. Baldock decided the non-executives should meet the day before and make their choice. Yes, they agreed, Greenbury should stand down and be made non-executive chairman.

And they would recommend that Salsbury should become chief executive.

Although Greenbury had attended none of the meetings with the executive directors, not one of those asked to put their views was in any doubt about Greenbury's preferred outcome. It was clear that relations between him and Oates were so poisoned that Greenbury might have left altogether if Oates had been put in day-to-day control. The chairman felt that Oates had been guilty of treachery - treachery not just against him, but more importantly against the family of M&S.

'Once Rick thinks you're disloyal, you're dead,' one insider was reported as saying. 'I couldn't see Rick and Keith being able to work together.

They've been beating each other up in private for ages.' Earlier on the day of the board meeting, Salsbury and Oates had each been seen by Baldock and his colleagues to be given the good and the bad news. 'Keith handled himself with great professionalism,' says one who was there. The non-executives, aware that Salsbury should not be seen as Greenbury's puppet, drafted a single-page 'schedule of responsibilities' aimed at giving Salsbury autonomy. The most important clause said that Greenbury should give advice on how to run the business only if Salsbury sought it.

By the time the full board met at 3.30, Oates had gone off to talk to his lawyers about severance. At the meeting, Greenbury and Salsbury were asked to step outside. For 40 minutes, the two sat drinking tea while the rest of the board voted on the non-executives' proposals. When they returned, Salsbury was formally crowned as M&S chief executive with effect from 1 February 1999. Greenbury congratulated and embraced his successor.

Newly crowned King Peter allowed himself a smile.

When Greenbury gave up his executive role, it marked much more than just the enforced retirement of another businessman. If we are indeed a nation of shopkeepers, then Richard Greenbury was our head of state. At six feet two with shoulders like a bear, he bestrode the British high street like a colossus.

King Richard's ascent to the throne began from a relatively modest starting point. When he left Ealing County Grammar School in 1952 at the age of 16, he was said to have been the most often caned boy in the school's history. His divorced mother had fallen ill and somebody needed to earn a wage. He found a job as a junior management trainee at the Ealing branch of M&S - at £4 a week. 'All my ambitions were destroyed,' he said later, 'I remember thinking to myself that life was very, very hard.'

He worked steadily and well. Before long he caught the eye of the diminutive Simon Marks, who used to call him 'big fella', and Greenbury was moved to head office. When he joined the board at 33, he was the youngest director.

Later he was to be the first chief executive outside the founding Marks, Sieff and Sacher families.

Greenbury always said his favourite job had been manager at the Marble Arch store in the late '50s. Years later when, as the boss, he made a Christmas visit to the M&S flagship store in Paris on the Boulevard Haussmann, he was observed by one admiring subordinate, 'just standing out there in the middle of the floor among the crowds, breathing in the atmosphere.'

Another key to his character is a background as an intense competitor.

Despite slipped discs and, later, a hip replacement, he remains a good tennis player and keeps a locker at The All England Club at Wimbledon.

He hated being on a losing side when he played five-a-side soccer for an M&S team. He loves winners and, perhaps predictably, is a Manchester United fan; he has a photo of his friend Alex Ferguson in his office.

(Oates, it should be noted, is a supporter of Blackpool.)

The big fella was large on loyalty, too. He was a M&S man and never wanted to work for anyone else. When he was on £50,000 a year, word has it he turned down a job offer from a rival retailer at £250,000. 'I love my job and I love this business,' he said later.

M&S is not just a company; it is a tribe and Big Rick became chief.

It's a tribe that is encouraged to stick together. M&S people go on holiday together. Many marry each other. The results of this have historically been easy to observe. Compare check-out staff at M&S against rivals: the M&S people make eye contact with you. They are a cut above average and they know it. It is a culture that leads to a measure of pride. And pride can lead to haughtiness of the kind that can foster a hostility to outsiders, and be a factor in, for example, the company's long-standing refusal to advertise.

Greenbury became chief executive in 1988 and moved into the chair in 1991. So what did King Rick do soon after ascending to the throne? He fired 600 members of the clan. A mild anxiety was abroad. The $750 million purchase of Brooks Brothers in the US in 1988 - not Greenbury's decision - had proved unwise. A move into Canadian chain stores was even worse.

The clear-out was almost certainly a necessary move and it indicated a change of approach as the company entered the tougher world of the '90s.

In 1992, in a gamble shared with suppliers, M&S reduced its margins in order to remain competitive. Greenbury worked from 8am until 7pm, had business dinners three nights a week and store visits at the weekends.

A poll of institutional investors and retailers voted him 1993 Retailer of the Year. Greenbury was clearly doing something right.

In 1997, M&S made profits of nearly £1.2 billion on sales of more than £8.2 billion, while trading in more than 30 countries.

For 10 years he dominated the company. 'Because he is very forceful, he can be very intimidating,' said one supporter. He is also physically impressive, which can add to the impression that he is overbearing. And although he insists, in his own words, that 'I am not a shouter,' this is simply untrue. Greenbury has a readiness to raise his voice that is unusual in a man who has had to show the political skills to climb the greasy pole of corporate Britain.

A colleague said: 'If you get to know him, you realise that his bark is worse than his bite, but some people do find his bark pretty frightening.

And to his credit, when he really does upset someone, and he realises it, then he does have the grace to apologise.'

Some business associates accuse Greenbury of lacking a sense of humour.

This is unfair. He just finds it impossible to see the funny side of any jibe about M&S. It is certainly true that he hated having anyone but himself talk to the press. The chairman has taken an obsessive interest in what has been written about the company and would fire off emotional line-by-line rebuttals to journalists who had written anything which he felt had traduced his beloved corporate charge. These are known throughout Fleet Street as 'Rickograms' and no business correspondent is truly blooded until he or she has received one.

Most observers concede that Greenbury's decade-long tenure at M&S was productive. His predecessor Derek Rayner modernised M&S after he took over in 1983, turning it from what had been akin to a family company into a plc. 'But it was Rick who professionalised it,' says a colleague of many years. 'Derek had pushed out the boundaries of what we were trying to do, but Rick introduced disciplines. He made us ask questions about how many people it takes to do such-and-such a job and he introduced a greater awareness of the need for control.'

With hindsight, of course, that strict control - control from the centre over virtually every aspect of M&S business - was probably too great, too absolute. Bizarrely, Greenbury was happy to hold on to both the chairmanship and the role of chief executive while he had given his name to one of the key reports which were meant to set the framework for corporate governance in the late '90s - a framework which assumed that, in virtually every case, those two roles should be split. Greenbury bitterly regretted having agreed to chair the corporate governance committee which reported back in 1985. 'What's been in it for us except hard work and a slagging off?' he protested. Little did he know an even ruder working over awaited him on territory much closer to home.

By the beginning of this year, the succession issue had been sorted out.

The ritual sacrifice had been made, but it had not yet marked the end of Greenbury's traumas. In public, at least, the issue which had propelled M&S into the headlines - the drastic downturn in trading - had almost been overlooked. Yet to those within M&S, it was clear this was the fundamental issue. Even before he officially took over the reins, Salsbury was going to have to give investors news even worse than that delivered with the interim figures in November. 'He wasn't just going through a baptism of fire,' says a fellow director. 'This was total immersion.'

Back in the spring of last year, the M&S management team had been set ambitious targets. The company had outlined plans to invest more than £2 billion over three years and increase its selling space by nearly 25%.

It was assumed that trading from its established businesses would be sufficiently vigorous to underpin the company's finances during the period of planned expansion.

M&S acknowledged that these investments, as well as items such as a £100 million programme to replace its tills across the entire company, meant profits would be held back for 18 months or so. Greenbury had been explicit about this in the 1998 annual report. 'We have always taken the long-term view when growing your business,' he told shareholders. 'I am therefore confident that when the current expansion programme is completed we will remain as we are today, the most profitable retailer in Europe.' But even as the annual report was being delivered to investors, there were indications that M&S was going to face a tough time. Salsbury, then in charge of general merchandise, spent two weeks on holiday in Oregon at the end of last summer. When he returned to Baker Street after his break, he studied the sales figures for June. Certainly, the weather had been poor, which had hit all clothing retailers. But that wasn't sufficient to explain why the M&S figures were quite so sharply down. 'I looked at the numbers,' Salsbury now recalls, 'and I thought, this is too much'.

He and his colleagues tried to cut back on the quantities being ordered from suppliers. But sales continued to fall away, and to a greater extent than the high-street opposition. 'We got off to a lousy start in September and that was followed by discounting by the competition,' says Salsbury.

'We didn't see early enough that things were going to deteriorate so quickly in October, and it got very much worse in November and December.'

When M&S delivered its interims at the beginning of November, it was clear the company was already having a rotten year. But neither the company nor its shareholders realised at that stage that Christmas itself was going to be lousy, too. Once M&S started its post-Christmas sale on 27 December - supported by an unprecedented television advertising campaign and some pretty lacklustre press ads - the figures perked up. On the first day of the sale, the Baker Street store took £1.25 million in six hours.

But the damage had been done. Some 10% of the £2.5 billion worth of clothing that M&S had bought in for its autumn season remained unsold. It was too late to catch up.

ACT 3 - THE BLOODBATH.

On 14 January, with fully two weeks to go before he officially took up the reins, Salsbury gave his first statement as chief executive-elect. It was a profits warning the like of which M&S investors had never seen. In the 15 weeks to early January, UK sales had been 4.4% down on the equivalent period a year earlier - and this was despite a 9% increase in selling space. Within this, according to insiders, the performance of women's clothing had been far worse. And business was groggy in the Far East and Europe.

M&S, said Salsbury, would be lucky to make more than about £650 million for the full year - little more than half the figure for 1997/98 and less than the company was making in the early '90s.

Greenbury, although technically still executive chairman, was 6,000 miles away in the Caribbean. He had already ceded control to Salsbury. 'What does an old dinosaur like me know about retailing?' he had joked with colleagues.

Once Greenbury retires as chairman, now scheduled for the summer of 2000, the appointment of an outsider to that hot-seat is likely. M&S has already called in some leading management consultants to help reverse its fortunes.

One M&S head office staffer says Greenbury is already viewed by some as the old guard and that the workforce feels it now has 10 months to catch up with changes that should have been made over 10 years. It was also noted that the man who had least to do with the downturn, Oates, was the one who had to go.

What had gone wrong? With the benefit of hindsight, the M&S decision to spend so hugely on investment over the years 1998 to 2001 was badly timed. Expansion on such a scale just couldn't be financially buttressed when clothing sales in Britain, Europe and the Far East were evaporating.

In Britain, womenswear sales at M&S fell precipitately and there were worries it had lost its way in buying. The integration of a clutch of ex-Littlewoods stores into the M&S portfolio caused huge disruption in 1998, and 20% of the company's British selling space had to undergo facelift and upheaval.

And in an autumn season when women's fashions were dominated by blacks, greys and any colour as long as it was drab, huge M&S outlets - designed to give long, clear, uncluttered sight lines across the store - looked forbidding.

What needed to be done? It is significant that in his pitch for the chief executive's job, Oates made points about the need for change at M&S which were roughly congruent with the initiatives subsequently announced by Salsbury - devolving power down the organisational structure and recognising that selling blazers through Brooks Brothers in the US requires rather different skills from retailing women's underwear in Britain. The two men who ended up at loggerheads in fact had remarkably similar agendas.

Although Salsbury was known within M&S, he was virtually invisible to the outside world. But within the business, he was liked and respected, having worked in virtually every area of the M&S empire. He is a bulldog-like man with an eager, florid face. He speaks quickly and efficiently and is credited with having aggressive expansionist ideas. He occasionally lapses into M&S corporate-speak, referring to committees and parts of the organisation by their acronyms, then pauses and says, 'I'm sorry, do I sound as if I'm talking complete Irish?'

Few in the City knew anything about him, although he has shown he can implement tough decisions. As personnel boss in the severance of 1991, he had been chief wielder of the neck axe for Sir Rick. But the head of one of M&S's largest rivals said of Salsbury: 'He's a man who I have met and yet he left no impression.'

After six weeks on the throne Salsbury made his move and left a considerable impression. In the worst bloodletting since the firings by Sir Rick at the beginning of his reign, Salsbury announced he was removing three long-standing directors and 28 other executives - nearly a quarter of the company's senior managers. More, it was warned, may have to follow. The three top dogs who went included John Sacher, one of the remnants of the founding families. Others were Chris Littmoden, in charge of America, and Derek Hayes, who tended Europe. According to Kremlin gossip, all three had been for Oates. They paid for that with their jobs.

There is no doubt that, before these cuts, the M&S senior management was looking unwieldy. Large boards are no longer the symbol of corporate virility they once were, but an indicator of slow lines of communication.

The cull had reduced from eight to seven the lines of management between Salsbury and the boy on the checkout as Salsbury worked his way down from directors to senior managers to middle management.

For the City this was a start. Crucially, however, Salsbury has to demonstrate that M&S has the management strength and flexibility to re-engineer a company that has more than 70,000 employees round the world, preserving that which has contributed to its past success while loosening up a command structure which has grown sclerotic and inflexible. Well before last autumn's upheavals, M&S textiles suppliers had been gently told they would have to look at ways of cutting their costs - a clear invitation to transfer production abroad, and one that was hardly welcome for an industry which, at the end of last year, was shedding more than 300 UK jobs every week.

'Marks and Sharks' they yelled at the TUC conference when they got wind of this.

More radically, Salsbury has recently encouraged the idea of having some healthy tension between those who buy merchandise for M&S and those responsible for selling it. Store managers, he says, should have more freedom and think of themselves more as franchisees rather than simply loading the shelves with whatever the buyers decide the British public should be buying.

Even more radical is the recent suggestion that M&S bring in designer brands to boost clothing sales. Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren underwear may not last as long as the tried and trusted St Michael variety but nobody seems to care about that any more. The warm, secure world of M&S is changing and in a more violent way than expected. But amid the turmoil one has to look at the wider picture. King Rick may have retreated bruised to the sidelines, and things may not be going in sparkling fashion, but M&S still supplies 40% of the nation's underwear, holds half the market in ready-made meals, and maintains a grip on 19% of the women's clothing market (twice that of its nearest competitor). It also sold £8 billion worth of goods last year and has a property portfolio with an estimated value of more than £5 billion.

On top of all this, the company has a brand name that is trusted more than any other - a pearl hard to price in the current age.

Meanwhile, investors looking at shares that have collapsed since their peak must accept that their company is no longer Britain's most profitable retailer - a title this year that goes to Tesco. Indeed, some wonder whether vultures are already circling their stricken rival, or whether Marks & Spencer will bite back with a bid of its own.

In the meantime the thrust at M&S is on marketing and it is rolling out some unfamiliar weapons - including an advertising agency and a public relations agency - in its battle against rivals that have chipped away at the former retail leader with their own versions of M&S successes.

One M&S employee summed it up: 'We find ourselves having to redefine who we are and what we stand for.'

GREENBURY: THE RISE AND FALL

1952: Richard Greenbury joins M&S at the level of junior management trainee as 16 year old

1954: Post-war building restrictions are lifted and M&S begins a massive development programme

1964: Simon Marks dies, ending an era of nearly 50 years as chairman

1972: Greenbury becomes full board director of M&S

1975: First European store opens in Paris. Gift vouchers are introduced

1978: Greenbury becomes joint managing director

1985: Chargecard and Marks & Spencer Financial Services are launched

1986: Greenbury becomes chief operating officer

1988: Greenbury becomes chief executive officer. First store opens in Hong Kong

1991: Lord (Derek) Rayner hands over chairman's role to CEO Greenbury

1992: Greenbury is knighted by John Major in New Year's honours list.

1993: Sir Richard Greenbury is named as Britain's 'retailer of the year'

1995: Clash with Chancellor Kenneth Clarke over Greenbury committee views on executive pay

1997: Profits top £1 billion for the first time and M&S plans a £2 billion global expansion

3 November 1998: Company reveals worst figures for six years. Share price off 10% in single trading session

5 November: Keith Oates pitches for top job in letter to non-executive directors after FT predicts early exit by Greenbury

8 November: Greenbury flies home from India for crisis board meeting

9 November 1998: Non-executive directors, including Dame Stella Rimington, Sir Martin Jacomb, Sir Michael Perry and Brian Baldock, meet at Greenbury's flat

10 November: At 15 minute M&S board meeting, the directors agree to form a nominations committee to select a new chief executive

24 November: Non-executives recommend Salsbury to be chief executive. He is appointed the next day, effective 1 February. Greenbury to stay on as chairman

January 1999: M&S to scale back expansion. Greenbury looks forward to 'more time with my family'

February 1999: Salsbury fires three directors and 28 other senior managers in start of reorganisation

March 1999: M&S plans to stock designer products alongside its famous St Michael brand.

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