Richardson ditches Sports Direct

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We all wondered why he agreed to do it and now so does he. David Richardson has stepped down as chairman of Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct. “The chairman believes that he has been unable to establish a strong working relationship with the executive team,” the company said. We all know how he feels. The shares, floated at 300p in February, are falling sharply and nearing 200p. Full marks to Richardson, a former Whitbread finance director, for doing the right thing. What, I wonder, was the last straw? The botched float? The botched profit warning? Ashley’s stake in Adidas? His bid for Newcastle United, which today said it had held talks with Ashley? More later, I hope.

The world’s largest mining company, BHP Billiton, has a new chief executive, Marius Kloppers, 44, to succeed Chip Goodyear. He has been running the group’s most profitable division, non-ferrous materials division, and was the front runner. I know nothing about him but, especially with all the merger talk in the industry, he is going to be a player so we’d better take a closer look at him tonight.

The other big “people” news today is that John Clare, 56, is stepping down after 13 years as chief executive of what is now called DSG International and a total of 22 years with the retailer. Some seem to think a bid for DSG may now be more likely but I don’t see why.

We have some ideas on potential successors, which we’ll share with you in tomorrow’s paper. Clare’s move comes just a couple of days after we reported that Kesa was hunting for a new boss after Jean-Noel Labroue told the board he wanted to step down as head of the Anglo-French group he has headed since its demerger from Kingfisher in 2003.

Clare is the fourth longest-serving chief executive in the FTSE 100 (after Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP, Charles Sinclair of DMGT and Micky Arison of Carnival).

Elsewhere in retail, it sounds like the Alliance Boots EGM to approve the sale to Stefano Pessina and KKR was pretty lively. Our retail correspondent Beth Rigby was there and will have more in tomorrow’s paper.

And Man Group has promised to return more capital to shareholders following the flotation of its brokerage business. This came as the hedge fund group announced annual results in line with expectations.

Rumour of the day: London Stock Exchange shares are up another 2.7 per cent, in heavy volume. The stock is now at £14.31, an all-time high and miles above the £12.43 that Nasdaq offered last year. Some say it is just that investors are increasingly bullish about its prospects. Others say that if Nasdaq buys OMX, it’ll then be a more credible bidder for the LSE because the synergies will be greater. I don’t buy either rumour, frankly, but something is clearly up.

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