Kesa Electrical, Europe’s third biggest electrical retailer, is on the hunt for a new chief executive after Jean-Noël Labroue told the board he wanted to step down as head of the Anglo-French group.

The retailer has hired consultants Egon Zender to conduct the search, which has been going on for weeks.

Mr Labroue is thought to have told the board he will stay on to ensure a smooth succession, which makes it likely that he will not quit the company until next year.

Kesa’s succession planning was thrown into disarray last year when Simon Fox, chief operating officer and heir apparent, quit after landing the top job at HMV, the music chain.

Mr Fox, who was responsible for Comet in the UK, Kesa’s
subsidiaries in Europe and
e-commerce developments, was well-regarded in the industry. He joined HMV in September. Kesa did not replace him internally.

European electronics retailers are facing increasing competitive pressures, squeezed by the supermarket chains on one side and the internet-only operators on the other.

DSG International, which owns the Dixons and Currys brands, has turned Dixons into an online-only store as it looks to compete on price with internet rivals.

Possible successors could include Kate Swann, who is seen to have done a good job as chief executive of WH Smith, or Sarah Weller, managing director of Argos.

However, one retail observer said the successful candidate would have to be able to deal with both the English and French sides of the business, which could suit a retailer with more international experience.

Mr Labroue has worked in the electrical retailing industry for most of his career, having joined Darty, the French arm of the group, in 1979.

Kesa declined to comment.

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