Chief executive of Debenhams Michael Sharp will step down from the business in 2016.
Sharp has been CEO at the struggling department store group since 2011.
He will stay at Debenhams until his replacement is found to ensure a smooth transition.
Sharp said: “I believe Debenhams is now capable of competing in the ever-changing and challenging world of multi-channel retailing. I accepted the job of chief executive with the intention of spending five years in the role and although it will be difficult to leave a fabulous company like Debenhams, now is the right time for the board to begin the process of identifying my successor.
“I will continue as chief executive throughout the Christmas trading period and into 2016 until a suitable successor has been appointed and settled into the role. We have a strong and talented management team and I would like to thank them and our 30,000 colleagues for their continuing support, hard work and passion. I hope being transparent about my intentions will stop recent speculation becoming a distraction, allowing me and the Debenhams team to focus on delivering our strategy and the important Christmas trading period.”
The news follows city stockbroker Cenkos Securities rallying support for a boardroom coup following a long period of weak trading.
Cenkos approached some of the department store’s biggest shareholders including Mukesh ‘Micky’ Jagtiani, who owns the Landmark retail empire in India and the Middle East. Jagtiani has been joined by Schroders and Old Mutual and backed by Cenkos. Together the three investors own around 25% of Debenhams.
Debenhams issued two profit warnings in 2013 and has been trying to move away from its discounting culture.
Sharp has worked for Debenhams, or its predecessor the Burton Group, since 1985 and was deputy chief executive of Debenhams from 2008 before being promoted to CEO. Group trading director Suzanne Harlow, who has been with Debenhams for about 20 years, has been tipped as a possible successor to Sharp.