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Product talent tipped for Primark's top job

Primark must appoint someone with ‘tremendous buying and sourcing capabilities’ to maintain its momentum when it replaces boss Arthur Ryan, City sources and recruiters said this week.

The value sector giant is understood to be on the hunt for a new chairman and chief executive to take over from 71-year-old Ryan, who has been with the business since 1969. Odgers Ray & Berndtson is understood to be handling the search.

Fran Minogue, managing partner of rival recruitment consultancy Heidrick & Struggles, said his successor would need a product background. “Ryan is central to the buying at Primark, so they should look for a product rather than an operations person,” she said. She added that candidates might include George at Asda global managing director Angela Spindler, New Look managing director for marketing, operations and international Carl McPhail and Littlewoods’ chief executive Mark Newton-Jones.

Stephen Selby, managing director of Success Appointments, agreed that a “merchant” should fill the role. “Primark’s success is down to an established management team with flair and vision for great product. It needs a real merchant who understands the market to drive its growth,” he said.

Selby added that Primark should break with tradition and appoint from outside the company. “Primark is on a roll but it needs to maintain that success. The way to do that is to bring in someone external,” he said.

Seymour Pierce analyst Richard Ratner expected Primark to look outside the business but didn’t rule out an internal promotion. “The current management team is successful, but no one knows the individuals. Primark needs to appoint someone with tremendous buying and sourcing capabilities.”

Primark’s board includes financial director Paddy Prior, deputy managing director Seamus Halford and human resources director Breege O’Donoghue.

Shore Capital analyst Darren Shirley was confident the new boss would come from within the business. “Primark is not a one-man show,” he said. “Ryan has a strong board beneath him - why fix something when it’s not broken?”

A Primark spokesman said that senior management succession planning was part of the group’s risk management process.

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