H&M chairman Stefan Persson steps down as son takes over

Fashion retailer also gets first female chief executive in management shuffle

Karl-Johan Persson (right), current CEO of Swedish clothing retail giant Hennes and Mauritz (H&M), and the company’s designated CEO Helena Helmersson. Photograph:  Jonas Ekstromer/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images

Karl-Johan Persson (right), current CEO of Swedish clothing retail giant Hennes and Mauritz (H&M), and the company’s designated CEO Helena Helmersson. Photograph: Jonas Ekstromer/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images

 

Hennes and Mauritz AB said its 72-year-old chairman, Stefan Persson, is stepping down as the billionaire patriarch of the fashion retailer hands over the reins to his son.

Karl-Johan Persson, who had been chief executive of H&M, will in turn hand the CEO role to Helena Helmersson, its chief operating officer, according to a statement on Thursday. She will be the first woman to run the company in the seven decades it has existed.

The announcement came as H&M announced pretax profit of to 5.4 billion kronor (€507.9 million) in the three months through November, more than the 4.8 billion kronor that analysts had expected.

Mr Persson the younger, a billionaire in his own right, has been CEO of H&M since 2009, steering the retail fashion giant through a cycle of transition that included a huge shift to online shopping and greater consumer awareness of the need for sustainability in clothes production.

The outgoing chairman said it was “a natural change, after 20 years as chairman, to hand over to Karl-Johan.” He said he will “continue to be a committed owner, just as today, but from a different position.”

Ms Helmersson is herself a long-standing H&M employee. She started in 1997 as an economist in the company’s purchasing department, and did a five-year stint as sustainability manager. She’s been COO for just over a year.

“I feel confident in handing over the CEO role to Helena, who is an experiencedand great leader who embodies our values. Helena will continue to work on theplan that we have adopted for 2020 and onwards,” Mr Persson said.

The fashion giant has struggled to scale back its inventory and do better at matching what it has in stock with what it sells.

Like its competitors, H&M is doing more of its business online. H&M has consolidated its business in established markets and focused its expansion efforts in growth markets. – Bloomberg