May 5, 2011 11:29 pm

M&S deputy chairman to step down

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Sir David Michels and Lady Patten are to step down as non-executive directors of Marks and Spencer, in the latest changes at the top of the high street retailer.

M&S also said it had appointed a senior executive from Mars, the confectioner, to be its new head of homewares, and hired a director from John Lewis.

M&S said that Sir David, deputy chairman and senior independent director, would step down at the end of his second three-year term in February.

Lady Patten, who has served as a non-executive director since 2006, and who chaired the remuneration committee until September 2010, will depart at M&S’s annual meeting in July.

The moves follow the arrival of Marc Bolland as chief executive of M&S a year ago, and Robert Swannell as non-executive chairman in January.

One shareholder said Sir David and Lady Patten had been associated with corporate governance issues at the retailer. Sir Stuart Rose became chairman as well as chief executive in March 2008, in contravention of best practice, while pay has also been a concern for some investors.

Tony Shiret, analyst at Credit Suisse, said the moves were predictable. “A lot of issues with the company were corporate governance-related, and these were senior non-executives at the time and they must have some responsibility.”

Sir David has been a non-executive director of M&S since 2006. He indicated to shareholders two years ago that he would like to succeed Sir Stuart as chairman but subsequently dropped out of the race for the job.

More recently, as chairman of the nomination committee, he led the searches for the group’s new chairman, chief executive and finance director.

These appointments have been well received by shareholders.

Lady Patten came under pressure from shareholders two years ago over Sir Stuart’s pay. She was also a non-executive director at Bradford & Bingley, the failed bank.

People familiar with the situation said Sir David and Lady Patten had both decided to step down as they did not want to serve a third term on the M&S board. Sir David will not be replaced as deputy chairman, but M&S will appoint a new senior independent director. The group said it had begun the process of identifying new non-executive directors.

M&S also said on Thursday that it had appointed Damian Guha from Mars as its new head of homewares. It has also hired Robert Weston, rival John Lewis’s head of strategy and international development, to become its brand director for food.

Mr Guha will report to Kate Bostock, head of general merchandise, while Mr Weston will report to Steve Sharp, marketing director, as will another brand director set to be appointed for the general merchandise business.

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