Marks & Spencer executive chairman Sir Stuart Rose will leave the retailer in March 2011.
M&S said it had appointed headhunters to identify and recruit an independent chairman to replace Rose when he steps down in 12 months time.
Marc Bolland will join M&S as chief executive on May 1 this year but Rose will continue to chair the M&S board to ensure a smooth transition period. He will become chairman of the retailer from July 31 on a salary of £875,000. Bolland was previously chief executive of supermarket chain Morrisons.
The announcement follows months of speculation around when Rose would step down from his duties at M&S. It will see him leave four months earlier than the imposed July 2011 deadline for his departure. He caused controversy in 2008 when he combined the roles of chairman and chief executive.
M&S deputy chairman Sir David Michels said: “The board has set out this process to ensure a smooth transition over the coming months and enable Marc to draw on Stuart’s considerable experience.
“We are pleased to be moving into the final stage of our commitment to split the roles and appoint an independent chairman by March 2011.”