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M&S’s Rose refuses to wither under fire

So much for the hotly-anticipated shareholder revolt at the Marks & Spencer AGM on Wednesday this week.

. If anything it was the press and the City and not the M&S board that came in for a bashing from shareholders for, as one put it, the “hysteria” surrounding the company’s performance.

This was meant to be the meeting when the debonair Sir Stuart Rose at the very least got a bloody nose for taking up the controversial role of executive chairman at the retailer. In the end, he got through on the vote to re-elect him, gaining more than 94% support from shareholders (although this did not include abstentions from disgruntled institutional shareholders). In fact, not one of the 13 resolutions proposed at the AGM met any real resistance.

Of course, Rose was challenged on his role but before the questions came, deputy chairman Sir David Michels did a fantastic PR job in explaining the retailer’s decision to elevate Rose. So much so that it was hard to disagree with him, and in the end no one really did. Keeping Rose on board and delegating some of his chief executive responsibilities to the executive committee in order to see which individuals would rise to the challenge was the right choice, he said.

And, as one impassioned shareholder put it: “If [Rose] goes, when comes such another?” We don’t know about that, but while the board has come through this latest saga intact and with broad shareholder support, it had better start looking hard for this elusive “such another” (as well as sorting out the clear disparity between the food and the clothing business). Because, if not revolt, there were certainly signs of impatience among shareholders.

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