Former Asda chief executive Allan Leighton is the front-runner to become chairman of value chain Peacocks.
The high-profile placing, which is expected to be confirmed in the next few weeks, would be a coup for privately owned Peacocks, which is thought to be considering future options including an IPO or sale.
Leighton, who along with then Asda chairman Archie Norman led the sale of the supermarket chain to US giant Walmart in 1999, is also deputy chairman of luxury department store business Selfridges, which is controlled by the Weston family. He was also chairman of department store chain Bhs following its takeover by tycoon Sir Philip Green in 2000. Leighton tried to buy Green out in 2007, but the approach was rejected.
Peacocks is part of Peacock Group, which also owns mainstream womenswear chain Bonmarché. Peacock Group was taken private in 2006 by chief executive Richard Kirk, who owns 30% of the business, and is backed by US hedge funds Och-Ziff and Perry Capital.
The retailer has had no chairman for more than five years since previous incumbent Gavin Simonds stood down following the company’s delisting. In February, it was revealed that headhunter Heidrick & Struggles had been drafted in to find a new chairman, prompting speculation of a flotation, something Kirk has previously played down.
Peacock Group has since entered into exclusive talks with private equity firm Duke Street Capital about a sale of Bonmarche, further fuelling industry expectations that wider ownership changes are on the cards.
Last year bidders were understood to be circling Peacocks, potentially valuing the retailer at £600m, but no sale resulted.
Leighton is also a former chairman of Royal Mail and remains chairman of privately owned jeweller Pandora and a non-executive director of broadcaster BSkyB.
Kirk said: “We have had a good start to the year and are looking to recruit a new chairman as we take the company to the next stage. This is an ongoing process which we hope to complete by the summer.”
Sources close to the retailer said Peacocks was in talks with a number of people about the chairman role.