Michael Sharp, the outgoing chief executive of Debenhams, has insisted he had always planned to leave the department store group after five years at the helm, dismissing rumours of a shareholder revolt.
Sharp announced this morning (October 22) that he would step down from his position in 2016 but would remain in the business until his successor had “settled into the job”. The department store boss said he hoped the “speculation surrounding his position” would stop following the announcement.
Sharp said: “I had always intended to do this job for five years, although it was never said publicly. That was always my plan and I’m sticking to it.
No one has asked me to leave. I am two months into my fifth year and I’m on a 12 month notice so I need to make my intentions clear to the board. This will allow me to focus on running the business. I don’t want [my position] to become a distraction.”
City stockbroker Cenkos Securities has been rallying support for a boardroom coup for a number of weeks following a long period of weak trading at the retailer.
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.
Today it announced a 7.3% rise in profit before tax for the year to August 29.
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.