The MT interview: Allan Leighton

Having safely delivered Asda into the hands of Wal-Mart, he famously quit the top job at the superstore to 'go plural'. His non-exec backlist features lastminute and Leeds United, and his current CV lists BSkyB, Selfridges, Bhs and the chair of Royal Mail. Not a one-trick pony, then.

by Chris Blackhurst

The meeting room in Selfridges' head office is quiet. Outside, there's the din of delivery vans coming and going from the store, workers chatting on their fag break, drinkers having a late-afternoon pint at the pub on the corner. In here, there's silence.

A few grainy pictures of Selfridges in Edwardian times, of people promenading on Oxford Street and in the shop's roof garden adorn the walls; otherwise, the decor is plain. The place is soulless. Then, the door is flung open and in strides Allan Leighton. Suddenly, the space is as busy and noisy as the street below. He catapults into the chair, his long limbs stretching out to the sides. His head is shaved and burned by the sun. He looks fit and lean - more ageing footballer than businessman in his early fifties.

He bristles with energy and purpose, already keeping a beady eye on his watch. Everything about him says fast and furious: his sparse physique; his body language; his dress of checked shirt, no tie, playful Union Jack cuff-links; and his speech. It's as if he's wired. Top boss on speed - that's Allan Leighton.

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