Marks & Spencer clothing boss quits firm for new role
John Dixon quits to become chief executive of unnamed firm
Clothes are displayed on hangers in an M&S shop in northwest London.
John Dixon, the head of Marks & Spencer’s non-food division, has quit Britain’s biggest clothing retailer to become chief executive of another company, M&S said on Thursday.
The 131-year-old M&S said Mr Dixon, whose purview spans clothing, shoes and homeware, would step down from the M&S board immediately and leave the company on a date to be agreed. His destination was not disclosed.
“I now have the opportunity to become a chief executive and have therefore resigned from this great company,” he said.
M&S said that in line with its succession plans, Mr Dixon’s role as the head of the firm’s most profitable division will be assumed by Steve Rowe, head of its successful upmarket food division.
Analysts speculated the change puts Mr Rowe, who has been with M&S for more than 26 years, in pole position to succeed group chief executive Marc Bolland when he decides to depart.
But some suggested the change could harm his chances.
“I think the odds have just lengthened. Steve Rowe would have been much better placed if he was still running food rather than drinking from the poisoned chalice that is M&S clothing,” said independent retail analyst Nick Bubb.
Mr Rowe himself has made no secret of his desire for the top job, telling Reuters last year he would like to be chief executive.
M&S said Andy Adcock, currently trading director, food, would step up to be director of food, reporting to Mr Bolland on an interim basis.
Mr Dixon had headed the non-food business since 2012 and previously ran the food business for four years.
He was considered to be a candidate to succeed Bolland as chief executive but his star has waned as M&S has struggled to deliver a sustained increase in underlying clothing sales.
Earlier this month M&S reported a dip in first-quarter underlying sales in general merchandise, a setback after a return to growth for the first time in 15 quarters in the previous three months.
At the same time the credentials of Mr Rowe for the top job have been enhanced by 23 straight quarters of underlying sales growth in food and an outperformance of the wider grocery market.
Laura Wade-Gery, executive director multi-channel, and Helen Weir, the new chief finance officer, are also considered by analysts and investors to be candidates to succeed Mr Bolland.
However, Mr Bolland, chief executive since 2010, said in May he had no plans to depart any time soon, telling reporters he “absolutely” expected to present financial results in May next year.
Shares of M&S closed Thursday at 547 pence, valuing the business at £9 billion.