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Cheshire and Bucher voted off Debenhams board

The CEO of Debenhams, Sergio Bucher, and chairman, Sir Ian Cheshire, are no longer on the board following a shareholder vote at the retailer’s annual general meeting.

Two major shareholders voted against the re-election of Bucher and Cheshire. One of these shareholders is thought to be Sports Direct owner, Mike Ashley, who owns 29.7% of the business and who only last month offered Debenhams a £40 million loan in return for an increased stake which was rejected.

Bucher will continue in his role as CEO to lead the retailer’s transformation plan to reshape Debenhams which this morning reported a 3.4% fall in sales over the Christmas trading period. He will report into the board which stated it has “full confidence” in the former Amazon executive.

Terry Duddy, Debenhams’ senior independent director, will replace Cheshire as interim chairman with immediate effect.

“I recognise that individual shareholders have wished to register their dissatisfaction,” said Duddy. “I would like to thank Ian for his strong leadership of the board and his contribution to the business. We wish him all the best for the future. I am looking forward to working with Sergio. My first task is to meet with shareholders so that I understand any concerns that they may have.”

Commenting on the shock news, Suzy Ross, senior advisor at Accenture Retail sympathised with the beleaguered department store chain: “The dramatic and sustained decline in Debenhams’ fortunes in the last three years is not simply down to wider physical retail market challenges. Department stores are one of the hardest and most complex sectors of retail – and they require deep specialist experience to be successful. In a headlong rush to create new customer experiences - such as prioritising mobile and premium store experiences – losing sight of getting the product and proposition right for loyal, valuable customers has been costly.”

She continued: “Debenhams is a cautionary reminder of the criticality of the right leadership and the right set of priorities to lead in these challenging times. Retailers who combine the fundamentals of traditional retail while harnessing the power of customer analytics and new technologies are the ones with a competitive advantage.”

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