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Debenhams closes in on chief executive appointment

Debenhams is expected to appoint a new chief executive within the next two weeks, Drapers understands. 

Following the department store’s fall into administration, former chief executive Sergio Bucher exited the businesses in April leaving non-executive chairman, Terry Duddy, in the role of interim executive chairman. 

However, sources close to the situation have indicated that the search for Bucher’s successor is almost at a close. 

Former Superdry CEO Euan Sutherland is still understood to be a front runner for the role. Appointed as chief executive of Superdry in 2014, Sutherland stepped down in April following the reinstatement of the brand’s founder Julian Dunkerton.

Sources have suggested that former LK Bennett CEO and Coast managing director, Margaret McDonald, is also a key contender for the role. 

McDonald left her most recent position as president at Victoria’s Secret in September 2017 after four years at the American lingerie brand. She is currently a non-executive director at lifestyle store chain Flying Tiger Copenhagen.

“She’s been back from the US for a year or so now and is looking for a CEO role,” revealed one source. “However, she’s not run a PLC before and she may be a little close to Steve Cook’s [Debenham’s managing director of fashion and home] background.” 

Another McDonald potentially in the mix is Jill McDonald, who left Marks & Spencer last week after less than two years as managing director of clothing and home. 

All three candidates are available with immediate effect - a factor which recruitment sources noted as important, considering the uncertain future of Debenhams. 

“I can’t see someone wanting to work a six-month notice [given the difficult position Debenhams is in]. The candidate needs to be someone who is available rather than someone who would need to resign for the job.”

Industry insiders said the retailer needs a “real trader” at the helm to revive its fortunes. 

”They just need somebody who can trade the hell out of that business and get it through to Christmas. Someone who is a trader - a young Philip Green in his hay day- who can trade the business hard. That’s arguably what Sergio didn’t do enough of.” 

Another source agreed: ”It shouldn’t [matter if they] are a digital native or old retail person. Whoever it is, needs to have the vision and boldness to actually be able to think of what is relevant today and tomorrow.” 

“[Debenhams] needs a street fighting turnaround merchant, an Alistair McGeorge type, who can get in there and sort things out,” another source added. 

One supplier said: ”It has to be someone with a good strategic background, who has done it before and can help turn the business around. They need to be able to prioritise quickly and make good commercial decisions.”

Debenhams declined to comment. 

Readers' comments (2)

  • They are all available for a reason. Maybe preferable to find the right person rather than an available one.

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  • darren hoggett

    Debenhams should be bold instead of picking from the merry go round of mediocrity. However, because of Debenhams precarious state, the vacancy is probably best avoided except for those who have absolutely nothing to lose.

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