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£14m windfall for Hobbs

Hobbs has secured £14m of new investment from its private equity backer 3i, and parachuted in turnaround specialist Iain MacRitchie to replace retail veteran Tony Campbell as chairman.

Campbell has relinquished his stakeholding in the business as part of the restructure, along with a handful of other former directors and their families, including that of former Hobbs chief executive Nick Samuel who died last June.

The move, which has been several months in the planning, has simplified Hobbs’ shareholding structure and released funds to incentivise the existing management team and potential recruits. 3i continues to control just over 80% of the business – 42% through its own stake and 40% through Eurofund IV funds it manages.

Campbell, was one of the key executives responsible for the turnaround of Asda in the 1990s, and has been Hobbs chairman for eight years.

MacRitchie comes from a FMCG marketing background and has spent the last six months leading a comprehensive strategic review of Hobbs, commissioned by 3i last year from branding consultancy Added Value. Before that he developed new brands for sports nutrition group Maxinutrition.

MacRitchie will spearhead plans to develop each of Hobbs’sub-brands – the core Hobbs Collection, trend-led NW3 and premium range Limited Edition – so that each has a more distinctive feel.

Chief executive Nicky Dulieu told Drapers: “There is still quite a perception gap between the old Hobbs and what we actually do now.”

Hobbs has also recruited Loraine Woodhouse as group finance director, with immediate effect. It is Woodhouse’s first role in the fashion industry. She was previously finance director at Capital Shopping Centres and Costa Coffee.

Hobbs, which comprises 59 standalones and 65 concessions, increased sales by around 12% in the year to January 2011, according to Dulieu. It has also increased profits, though not quite to pre-2010 levels, she said.

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