Mike Ashley ousts Debenhams’ chairman and CEO

Shareholders act after troubled UK retail chain’s woes deepened over the holidays

Mike Ashley, billionaire and founder of Sports Direct International, holds a 29 per cent stake in Debenhams.

Mike Ashley, billionaire and founder of Sports Direct International, holds a 29 per cent stake in Debenhams.

 

Shareholders ousted Debenhams’ chairman and its chief executive officer from the board in a coup engineered by billionaire Mike Ashley after the troubled UK department-store chain’s woes deepened over the holidays.

Chairman Ian Cheshire said he’d step down after more than half of shareholders at the annual general meeting Thursday voted not to re-elect him. Investors also opposed chief executive officer Sergio Bucher’s continuation as a director, though he’ll remain in the management role.

A Debenhams spokesman said two major shareholders voted against the reappointments: Ashley, the CEO of Sports Direct International, who holds a roughly 29 per cent stake; and Landmark Group, a retail and hospitality company based in Dubai, which owns 7 per cent.

The stalwart of British shopping districts, which has struggled to keep pace with Amazon. com and other online retailers, said discounting will likely impact its gross margin in the first half, following three profit warnings last year. It plans to close as many as 50 stores.

– Bloomberg