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38. Michael Sharp, outgoing chief executive, Debenhams

Outgoing Debenhams chief executive Michael Sharp

Position last year: 35

It has been a bittersweet year for Debenhams chief executive Michael Sharp.

Under his leadership, the department store group reported a 7.3% increase in profit before tax to £113.5m for the year to August 29, breaking a four-year cycle of profit decline. Group like-for-like sales were up 2.1% in constant currency. Gross transactional value was up 1.3% to £2.9bn. Debenhams maintained its group gross margin rate, with a 90 basis points improvement year on year. The group ploughed ahead with its promise to reduce discounting - 17 days less this year - and own-brand full price sell-through increased by 7%.

However, despite these figures, City stockbroker and Debenhams investor Cenkos Securities had been rallying support for a boardroom coup following a long period of weak trading at the retailer and in October Sharp announced he would be stepping down in 2016. The outgoing chief executive insisted he had always planned to leave the department store group after five years at the helm, and dismissed rumours of a shareholder revolt. His replacement is yet to be announced and the industry is waiting for an indication of the retailer’s future direction, as well as Sharp’s next move.

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