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Indian retail billionaire behind Debenhams coup

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.

Readers' comments (2)

  • 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.”

    I have to say that the above quote nail's Debenham's, way too comfy for most of the management, it needs a shake up big time from the top down, the good people leave, rarely is anyone pushed out because they are deemed too expensive to get rid of as they have been their so long, it's become a dinosaur and is in desperate need of a complete management re-structure at all levels, the most banal retailer in the UK.

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  • Totally agree with the previous comments. Many of the their stores still have an 1980's feel about them and only manage to draw people in when they have a sale. If the typical consumer will not pay ticket price in your store, then it is being run badly. Debenhams should of gone higher end years ago, but it was obsessed with turnover over profit, which is always the sign of an inept and useless boardroom.

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