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John Roberts is stepping down as chief executive of AO World, 17 years after the maverick entrepreneur founded the London-listed electricals retailer in a pub bet.

He will be replaced by Steve Caunce, who as chief operating officer has taken the lead in running the company day-to-day.

Mr Roberts, who has cast himself as a visionary with an eye on the big picture, will remain on the board with the title of “founder and executive director”.

“I am immensely proud to be handing over the CEO reins to Steve, who has been with me on the AO journey for more than 10 years,” Mr Roberts said.

AO has sought to shake up the white goods market, selling online and trying to gain a competitive edge in customer service by measures such as speeding up delivery times to one day or less.

However, the company’s full-year losses widened last year as the fast-growing online electricals retailer pressed ahead with an ambitious expansion in Germany and the Netherlands.

The company now trades at about half the £1.2bn valuation it achieved when it floated on the stock market in 2014.

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