February 3, 2013 5:58 pm

Sir Stuart to become Fat Face chairman

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Sir Stuart Rose, the high profile former Marks and Spencer boss who last month took on the chairmanship of online grocery company Ocado, is adding UK clothing retailer Fat Face to his jobs portfolio.

Sir Stuart will replace Fat Face’s chairman Alan Giles, who will step down in July after almost seven years in the role, said the retailer, which is owned by private equity firm Bridgepoint.

The appointment of such a heavyweight signals Bridgepoint’s desire to boost Fat Face’s performance seven years after buying the retailer at the peak of the credit bubble, as the private equity group prepares to raise a new buyout fund in the next 12 months.

Bridgepoint acquired Fat Face for €540m in 2007, at the height of the leveraged buyout market, from the retailer’s founders Tim Slade and Jules Leaver. The lifestyle clothing retailer has posted declining revenues since the acquisition as a sluggish economy and austerity measures hit consumer spending.

Typically private equity firms seek to sell assets after holding them for three to five years, but buyout groups have had a hard time exiting investments made at expensive prices on the eve of the crash.

Sir Stuart, who has been a member of Bridgepoint’s advisory board since 2008, said: “There are undoubtedly great opportunities ahead for the business and I look forward to working with Anthony [Thompson, chief executive] and his team in helping them realise their ambitious growth plans for the brand.”

Fat Face said it posted an 11 per cent increase in sales to £85.7m for the 26 weeks to 1 December and a 65 per cent jump in ecommerce revenues during Christmas trading.

In 1997, Sir Stuart was appointed chief executive of Argos to confront a hostile bid made by GUS, forcing the group to pay a much higher price than its initial offer. He then spent two years as chief executive of Booker, the cash-and-carry group that he sold to Iceland. In 2002 he sold Arcadia to Sir Philip Green and two years later defended M&S against a hostile approach by Sir Philip.

Bridgepoint is planning to start marketing a new fund in the next 12 months as the investment period of its current €4.8bn fund raised in 2008 is expiring at the end of this year, people with knowledge of the matter said.

In preparation for the marketing push, the London-based firm is seeking to return cash to its investors through disposals, including the possible €1bn sale of Swedish kidney dialysis company Diaverum. Bridgepoint declined to comment on fundraising.

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