An Indian retail billionaire has been named as one of the driving forces behind an attempted boardroom coup at Debenhams.
The struggling department store group’s three biggest investors, including Indian-born former London taxi driver Mukesh ‘Micky’ Jagtiani, who runs a retail empire with stores across the Middle East and India, are pushing for a management shake-up.
Jagtiani is joined by Schroders and Old Mutual and backed by City stockbroker Cenkos Securities, the Sunday Times reported this weekend. Together the three investors own around 25% of Debenhams.
The chain’s chairman, Nigel Northridge is understood to have interviewed at least one candidate to take over from chief executive Michael Sharp, and some suggest he could make the change in the new year.
Last weekend it emerged that Cenkos had approached shareholders to rally support for a rebellion, following a long period of weak trading.
An unnamed source quoted by the newspaper, who is reportedly close to the coup, said shareholders would spare Northridge if he acted quickly to replace Sharp.
“The trading strategy is not working,” the source said. “There’s a reason why people have to promote – customers won’t pay full price when the product’s not desirable enough. It’s clear that people have been there too long, nothing’s changing and it’s one-way traffic.”
Jagtiani is the founder and chairman of Landmark Group, which has interests in clothing, footwear and lifestyle businesses with in-house brands and retail stores. He was previously linked to a takeover of Debenhams.
Analysts told Drapers last week a fresh management team could be welcome as Debenhams, which is “too reliant on discounting”, needs a change in strategy.