News Column

Next shares suffer heavy slump as key man heads for rival

June 11, 2014

By Rupert Steiner, Daily Mail, London



June 11--Next's shares fell heavily after one of the key architects of the retail giant's success jumped ship to join US rival Abercrombie & Fitch.

The clothing chain said product director Christos Angelides, widely seen as righthand man to chief executive Simon Wolfson, would leave after a 28-year stint.

The departure is the second high-profile one at Next within the past few weeks.

Last month finance director David Keens announced plans to retire after 23 years in the role.

The loss of Lord Wolfson's second key lieutenant so soon rang alarm bells among investors, with the shares falling 110p to 6515p.

Angelides will become a president in charge of both the Abercrombie & Fitch brand and the group's kids' spin off. He will report to chief executive Mike Jeffries and take up his role in October.

While he will step down from the Next board immediately he will remain working within the business until he leaves and his replacement will not initially have a board position.

Wolfson said: 'Christos has made a huge contribution to the group in his 28 years of service and the board wish him success in his future endeavours.'

However, a source close to the company added: 'It's not true to suggest everything is going to collapse because he is going. He [Wolfson] has built an excellent team around him.'

Angelides is one of a number of leading British-based retail executive snapped up by American chains. In April Burberry's former chief executive Angela Ahrendts returned to her native country to run technology giant Apple's retail outlets.

Apple had previously gone shopping in the UK for her predecessor, luring former Dixons chief executive John Browett.

However that marriage did not last, with Browett returning home after just six months.

Angelides, 51, has spent his entire career at Next and at A&F will have overall responsibility for all aspects of the business which affect the customer.

He will also be accountable for the financial performance of the Abercrombie & Fitch and Abercrombie children's brands.

Jeffries said: 'Christos brings 28 years of experience, and his experience with all aspects of running a business made him the perfect candidate for this newly created role. His appointment is a critical step in our long-term strategy of being organised to win and we are excited to welcome him to the Abercrombie team.'

Investors will be keen to see enough management talent remains at Next to deliver strong performance. In May Next raised annual profit guidance for the second time after booming first-quarter sales driven by a 8.8pc rise at High Street stores. At the time Wolfson raised the annual profit range to between pounds sterling 750m and pounds sterling 790m from pounds sterling 730m to pounds sterling 770m.

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Leather goods retailer Mulberry has beefed up its board ahead of what is expected to be a disappointing full year update on Thursday.

The firm has been struggling to turn itself around after former chief executive Bruno Guillon tried to hike the prices and take Mulberry more upmarket.

Thierry Andretta, chief executive of Italian luxury jewellery brand Buccellati, will become a non- executive director.

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(c)2014 Daily Mail (London, )

Visit the Daily Mail (London, ) at www.dailymail.co.uk/home/index.html

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Source: Daily Mail (London, England)


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