Will a new chief executive make things right at Carpetright?

Betting executive Wilf Walsh has been appointed to lead the struggling retailer after a 7.5 month search. Founder Lord Harris can finally retire again.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 04 Jul 2014

After a seven and a half month search for a boss with the X Factor, embattled retailer Carpetright has finally rolling out the red carpet for a new chief exec. That means septuagenarian founder Lord Harris of Peckham can re-retire, after returning to preside over his company as executive chairman last October.

Darren Shapland had only been in charge for 17 months, but failed to stem a veritable flood of eight profit warnings in the previous two and half years. New chief exec Wilf Walsh, who will take up his post in July, is currently chairman of Dutch betting company Fortuna, having spent eight years as managing director of gambling group Coral after six years at HMV.

Not entirely similar retail experience then, but as retail analyst Nick Bubb put it, ‘joining Carpetright has always been a bit of a ‘gamble’ for executives.’ Lord Harris will also stick around as non-executive chairman to advise Walsh after the group’s AGM in September.

The 71-year-old’s son Martin is also leaving, having been on Carpetright’s board since 1997, most recently as group development director. Meanwhile, Graham Harris (no relation), who has been chief operating officer since October, is out the door ‘with immediate effect as this role has become redundant with the appointment of the new chief executive’. Always nice to know when someone’s contribution is valued.

The board shakeup comes after the retailer issued its third profit warning in six months in March, despite the booming housing market. It said underlying pre-tax profits would be £3.5m-£5.5m, around £10m less than analysts had forecasted.

Carpetright desperately needs its bet on Walsh to pay off then. Bill Gates, whose Cascade Investments somewhat randomly has a 7% stake in the company, will be hoping so too.

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